WASHINGTON >> Senate Republicans plan today to introduce a resolution condemning the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, offering a symbolic objection to the investigation a day after Republicans in the House stormed a secure room in the Capitol to disrupt it.
Under pressure to defend President Donald Trump amid damaging revelations about his conduct, senators appear to have settled instead on denouncing the impeachment inquiry that has uncovered them, giving anxious Republicans a chance to air their complaints about the process.
Led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who has fiercely defended the president, the Senate resolution will accuse Democrats in the House of conducting an unfair, secret inquiry designed to embarrass Trump without giving him the ability to defend himself.
“This is un-American at its core,” Graham said on “The Sean Hannity Show” on Fox News earlier this week. “What the House of Representatives is doing is a process of political revenge. It is alien to American due process.”
Graham, who was scheduled to formally introduce the resolution this afternoon, added: “All I’m asking is, give Donald Trump the same rights as Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had when it comes to impeachment.”
The back-to-back efforts to attack the impeachment process in the House and Senate are an attempt to undermine public support for the inquiry as a stream of witnesses from inside Trump’s own government have delivered day after day of damning testimony about the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine for his own political gain.
There was a pause today in the back-to-back depositions as the House honored Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who died last week. But behind-the-scenes work continued to push the inquiry forward. Impeachment investigators have negotiated in recent days with a lawyer for the former national security adviser, John Bolton, about a date for him to be deposed behind closed doors, according to two people briefed on the matter. The lawyer, Charles Cooper, declined to comment.
Revelations from the investigation so far have been increasingly difficult for some Republicans to defend, but opposition to the way the inquiry has been conducted has more or less unified the party.
The approach also reflects a recognition among Republicans that polls show that a majority of the public now supports the impeachment inquiry — if not Trump’s removal — putting additional pressure on some of their members to either support it or explain why they do not.
Frustration among Republicans about impeachment — and their need to find ways to deflect attention from it — intensified after Tuesday’s explosive testimony from Willian Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who offered excruciating detail of a Ukraine quid pro quo by Trump and what he described as an “irregular” diplomatic channel overseen by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.
House Republicans on Wednesday sowed chaos on Capitol Hill with a protest in the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee that delayed testimony by Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, for more than five hours.
If the intention of House members was to please Trump, it worked. The president today heaped praise on the Republican lawmakers on Twitter.
Now, it’s the Senate’s turn.
The resolution condemning the House investigation will be co-sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, who Tuesday called the impeachment process “unprecedented” and “grossly unfair.” He added that the “president has a legitimate complaint about the process.”
Senior Republican aides said the resolution was not expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote until next week at the earliest.
In the meantime, Democrats are shrugging off the Republican complaints about the process as they march forward with at least another week of closed-door depositions aimed at adding to the evidence of wrongdoing by Trump and the people around him.
An official working on the investigation said that one former and one current National Security Council official would sit for questioning next week.
Charles Kupperman, who served until last month as deputy national security adviser at the White House, was scheduled to sit for questioning Monday. Kupperman’s name has appeared only rarely in accounts of the Ukraine scandal, but he worked closely with John Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, who has been described in testimony as alarmed by what appeared to be pressure on Ukrainians by Trump and his allies.
Timothy Morrison, senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, is scheduled to appear next Thursday and would be the first current White House official to speak with investigators. Morrison this summer succeeded Fiona Hill, who has already told lawmakers about the alarm she and Bolton registered over the events.
Taylor testified that Morrison had intimate knowledge of the pressure campaign, including conversations involving U.S. and Ukrainian officials in which it was made clear that Trump had frozen $391 million in security assistance meant for Ukraine until its leaders committed to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his family, as well as unfounded allegations about the 2016 U.S. election.
The committees were already scheduled to hear in closed session Saturday from Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department.