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As impeachment trial looms, Rubio makes the case against witnesses

Rubio's argument is rooted in the notion that coming to terms with the scope of Trump's misdeeds just isn't that important.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the media on June 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the media on June 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.

After the House approved two articles of presidential impeachment last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Republican leaders to consider testimony from four key witnesses: former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey, associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget. The relevance of these four people has grown considerably since.

Indeed, since the impeachment vote, there have been multiple reports documenting, among other things, Mulvaney's role in executing Donald Trump's Ukraine scheme, Bolton's efforts to steer the president in a more responsible direction, Blair's interactions with Mulvaney about the dubious legality of the gambit, and Duffey's role in communicating Trump's instructions to other agencies.

Common sense makes clear that these officials have unique and important information about the president's actions. Senators wanting to know the whole truth before voting on whether to remove Trump from office should obviously want to hear from them.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), however, doesn't quite see it that way. Consider this tweet from the Florida Republican, published yesterday afternoon:

Democrats keep playing stupid games. A Senate trial will be on the two Articles of Impeachment passed by House (if Speaker ever decides to send them over).House voted on them based on testimony of certain witnesses. Senate has no duty to go beyond those witnesses in our trial.

I suppose there's a kernel of truth to the senator's point: the Senate probably does not have a literal, procedural obligation to pursue the whole truth by way of witnesses whom lawmakers have not yet heard from.

What's harder to understand is why Rubio and other Senate Republicans would choose willful ignorance on purpose.

The House had access to information that was extensive, damaging, and incriminating, and 230 lawmakers considered it sufficient grounds for impeachment, effectively playing the role of a grand jury indicting the accused president. Since then, additional information has emerged, bringing Trump's alleged misdeeds into sharper focus.

For Rubio, however, the responsible thing for senators to do would be to avoid the additional information. The chamber could hear from key witnesses, but the Florida Republican's tweet suggested the Senate isn't required to learn more, so members shouldn't bother.

It's an argument rooted in the notion that coming to terms with the scope of the president's alleged misdeeds just isn't that important.