On Sunday evening, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, outlining a Democratic-supported proposal for the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. More witnesses should testify, argued Schumer, including members of the Trump administration with personal knowledge of Trump's attempts to extort the government of Ukraine for a politically-motivated investigation into Joe Biden, a potential 2020 White House challenger. His plan, Schumer concluded, "will allow the public to have confidence in the process and will demonstrate that the Senate can put aside partisan concerns and fulfill its constitutional duty."
McConnell, though, was having none of it. "If House Democrats' case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it here in the Senate," he said. "The answer is that the House should not impeach on this basis in the first place." McConnell's retort comes on the heels of reports that he hopes to hold a brief, uneventful trial with no witnesses in attendance, and in the aftermath of South Carolina senator and dependable Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham's vow to make the trial "die quickly" in the Senate. "I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here," he said.
Taking an impartial position is more difficult, however, for the Republican senators who face tougher re-election bids in 2020 than Graham does in solidly-red South Carolina, and who don't want to have to explain to angry voters why they backed a sham trial that resulted in a speedy acquittal. Over the last few weeks, these more vulnerable lawmakers in purplish states have grappled with the dilemma before them in very different ways.
Martha McSally (Arizona)
The race: McSally, a three-term congresswoman, managed to become Arizona's junior senator despite losing a 2018 Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema—an accomplishment made possible by the state's Republican governor, Doug Ducey, who appointed her to the late John McCain's seat until Arizona could hold a special election to fill it. Her likely general election opponent, Mark Kelly, is a former astronaut who became a gun safety accident following the 2011 shooting of his wife, then-congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The Cook Political Report rates the races as a toss-up, and a poll conducted earlier this month has Kelly up by three points.
Her words She told supporters last week that Republicans want to “make sure that we continue to highlight the abuse of power” that House Democrats have allegedly committed by impeaching the president, which she characterized as "the only abuse of power that we’ve seen going on here." A spokesperson later told the AP that McSally "takes her role as a juror seriously but hasn’t heard anything so far that would lead her to believe impeachment of the president is warranted, let alone removing him from office."
Cory Gardner (Colorado)
The race: Gardner is running for re-election in a state that: (1) went for Hillary Clinton in 2016; (2) elected a Democratic senator, Michael Bennet, that same year by a comfortable five-point margin; and (3) handed Democrats control of the state House, state Senate, and governor's mansion in the 2018 midterms. Put differently: This is going to be a challenge for Cory Gardner, one of the ten least popular senators in America, according to Morning Consult. Cook has the race as a toss-up, and popular former two-term governor John Hickenlooper is the favorite to take him on in the general election next fall.
His words: During the House impeachment inquiry, Gardner brushed off the investigation as a "political process," and pointedly refused to answer questions about whether a president asking a foreign leader to investigate a political rival is "appropriate." He's remained quiet about the Senate trial, however, as his precarious position doesn't lend itself to being out on the front lines of this fight.
Susan Collins (Maine)
The race: Collins is purportedly a moderate Republican who is perpetually disappointed by Trump's antics and/or lawlessness, and yet who perpetually disappoints observers when she declines to use her power as a U.S. senator to do something about it. Morning Consult ranks her as the second-least popular member of the Senate, trailing only Mitch McConnell, and her state is one of just two with a Senate election in 2020 that Trump lost in 2016. (Gardner's Colorado is the other.)
Her words: Earlier this month, Collins referred to McConnell's promise of "total coordination" with the White House as "not the approach I've taken." But after Schumer released his proposal for a Senate trial, Collins found a way to wriggle free of the constraints of her earlier stance. “I was surprised that he didn’t first sit down with the Senate majority leader and discuss his proposals rather than doing a letter that he released to the press,” she said on Monday. “The more constructive way would have been for him to sit down with Sen. McConnell.”
Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
The race: This state is a little less purple than the first three on this list—Cook rates the contest as Lean Republican, the next tier to the right of toss-up. But North Carolinians elected a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, in the same election in which it went for Donald Trump, and Tillis's popularity has been dropping over the past few months. Although several potential GOP challengers to Tillis have dropped out of late, the possibility of a primary defeat prompted Tillis to tack closely to the president in order to keep Republican voters in his camp.
His words: “I believe that the president wants his case to be heard," Tillis told Fox News last week. "I think it will further undermine what I think is a very weak case—one that certainly doesn't rise to the Senate convening as a jury and then considering removal of the president of the United States."
Joni Ernst (Iowa)
The race: Another election in a red state where there are nonetheless encouraging signs for Democrats. Like Collins, Ernst is among the ten least popular members of the Senate. Barack Obama won this state twice. And in the 2018 midterms, the composition of Iowa's congressional delegation transformed from 3-1 in favor of Republicans to 3-1 in favor of Democrats. (Noted xenophobe Steve King is the delegation's only remaining Republican.)
Her words: Ernst recently called the Trump impeachment inquiry "a political exercise from the start," and dismissing the notion that the Senate should include more witnesses in the trial it's about to conduct. “I think we’re good there,” she said. “I mean, if the House wanted to do more, they could have done more. We don’t need to clean up their sloppy job."
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Originally Appeared on GQ