%27Waste+of+time%27%3A+Senate+Republicans+plan+to+ignore+impeachment+hearings – POLITICO

%27Waste+of+time%27%3A+Senate+Republicans+plan+to+ignore+impeachment+hearings – POLITICO

The public impeachment hearings Wednesday will be a must-watch for Johnny Isakson, the retiring GOP senator from Georgia.

“As much as I can,” Isakson said of how much he’ll tune in. “That’s my responsibility.”

But the rest of the Senate doesn’t feel the same way.

As top diplomats William Taylor and George Kent prepare to appear before the House in the first public phase of the inquiry, few senators said they had plans to watch most of the testimony on Wednesday.

And though Democrats and a handful of Republicans said they would try to play catch-up if they couldn’t monitor in real time, a significant portion of the Senate GOP said they have no plans to watch at all.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’s going to “be paying attention to what we’re doing in the Senate.” Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 GOP leader, said “not at all” when asked whether he’d watch.

“You should show him my schedule. I don’t have time to watch that tomorrow,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said to an aide, citing a Judiciary Committee hearing. “It’ll be worth [following] when they decide to give due process to a minority party the same way that we did when Clinton and Nixon” went through impeachment hearings.

“They’re kind of on a fishing expedition,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). “So I’ve just got other things I’ll be spending my time on.”

It’s a continuation of a strategy Republicans latched on to last week as the House began releasing transcripts of its impeachment interviews and most GOP senators shrugged off a series of would-be bombshells. Many in the party now think there’s no point in even trying to keep up.

“It’s a political sideshow and I’ve got more important things to do,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “The House has its job to do. And then when it comes to us, that’s when our job kicks in.”

Both parties have described the impeachment hearings in stark terms. Republicans have argued the Democrats are trying to “overturn an election,” while Democrats assert that President Donald Trump abused his power in asking Ukraine’s president to probe former Vice President Joe Biden.

Yet at a hair-on-fire moment for the nation’s political class, it’s business as usual for senators. They will go to committee hearings, vote on a Department of Homeland Security nominee and hold their regular party lunches. Some will talk to the press, but many will decline to respond to Wednesday’s testimony because they simply haven’t watched it.

Some senators in both parties said they hope to watch a replay to understand what’s transpired in the remarkable impeachment inquiry, or at least read the news coverage. But few seemed concerned with letting a critical moment in history pass them by.

“I hope to be able to watch a little,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “But it’s a pretty hectic day, I’m not going to be able to sit glued.”

“I’m going to try to,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). “Otherwise, I’m recording it.”

Kent and Taylor have made remarkable assertions in their private testimony. Kent said Trump ally Rudy Giuliani waged a “campaign of lies” about then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, while Taylor said delivery of vital military aid to Ukraine was contingent on the launching of political investigations into Trump’s rivals.

Their testimony will be covered by major television networks, which announced plans to cut into their normal programming to cover the historic moment. The Senate is likely to be gone on Friday, when the next round of public testimony begins, which might allow more senators to watch.

But for some Republicans who will vote on Trump’s fate, there’s nothing going on in the House worth watching.

“It’s a sham. It’s a show trial. Not even that,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). “Nothing rises to the level of impeachment. So, this is just a big waste of time.”

Even the strongest Democratic supporters of impeachment don’t necessarily think it’s must-see TV, because the Senate is likely to have its own trial and their deliberations can begin there.

So while the House may have history on its hands Wednesday, it’s just another day in the Senate.

“I hope to get to see some of it,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). “The truth is, if it does come to the Senate, we are similar to jurors so we will have all the evidence marshaled for us specifically if they do decide to vote on and actually pass articles of impeachment. So I don’t think there’s a necessity to do it now.”


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