Making the case against witnesses, GOP's Blunt says a bit too much

It's one thing for Democrats to denounce GOP indifference to evidence; it's something else for a GOP leader to effectively say Dem assumptions are correct.
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U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) during a news conference February 7, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Late last week, as the debate in the Senate simmered over whether to include new witness testimony in Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offered a candid assessment.

"Would a witness change the result?" the member of the GOP leadership said. The Missouri Republican added that he doesn't see the need to "stretch this out with no change in outcome."

It's a posture rooted in practicality: it takes 67 senators to vote to convict a president and remove him from office, and if trial witnesses won't bring the Senate to 67 votes, then there's no point in hearing witness testimony.

Yesterday, as the editorial board of the New York Times noted, Blunt echoed the same sentiment in response to reporting on former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton's book, which appears to knock down the central pillar of the White House's defense.

A far more representative attitude in the Republican caucus was expressed by Roy Blunt, of Missouri, who said on Monday, "Unless there's a witness that's going to change the outcome, I can't imagine why we'd want to stretch this out for weeks and months."

With this tautology Senator Blunt gives away the game: All witness testimony to date -- all presented as part of the House impeachment proceedings -- has only strengthened the case against Mr. Trump, but Republicans will not vote to convict him under any circumstances. By definition, then, no witness in the Senate could possibly change the outcome.

Roy Blunt, in trying to sound a pragmatic note, inadvertently insulted Senate Republicans in ways his colleagues should -- but won't -- find rather offensive.

As the Missouri senator apparently sees it, GOP senators aren't taking their oaths or responsibilities too seriously; they're simply going through the motions and pretending to care about the impeachment proceedings. By Blunt's telling, presenting his Republican colleagues with evidence is pointless because they won't consider it, regardless of merit.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but John Bolton's testimony should "change the outcome," and in fact would "change the outcome" if Senate Republicans were approaching their duties with a degree of maturity and independence. If a far-right Republican official gives sworn testimony that proves the president's guilt, it stands to reason that GOP senators would have the wherewithal to take that seriously.

But for Roy Blunt, therein lies the point: he's confident that his Republican brethren don't and won't care. It's a posture predicated on the idea that GOP "jurors" will vote to acquit without regard for facts or propriety.

It's one thing for Democrats to denounce Republican indifference to the evidence; it's something else for a member of the GOP leadership to effectively say Democratic assumptions are correct.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog