NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana’s two U.S. senators are taking a wait-and-see approach to whether witnesses should be called during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. But a political analyst who worked on Capitol Hill thinks it would be a political misstep to have a trial without witnesses.
Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, both Republicans, along with their colleagues in the Senate are jurors for trial.
Cassidy said Democrats have insisted that there is strong evidence for removal of the president from office, but at the same time they are pushing for witnesses and additional documents for the trial that began this week.
“We will see after the initial evidence is presented. They [House managers] claim that the evidence that they have now is overwhelming. If that’s the case, then, obviously, it’s overwhelming, and they’ll be able to make their case without anything additional but we’ll have a vote in four or five days as to whether or not to have more documents and, or witnesses,” Cassidy said.
Sen. Kennedy answered questions from Capitol Hill posed by news reporters in his home state on Wednesday. He thinks it is premature to talk about calling witnesses.
"Now we’ve heard snippets here and there and news reports. We’ve never heard the case, pro or con, so first we have to hear the case to be able to make an informed decision about witnesses,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy added that he is not bothered by the long hours involved. Tuesday’s session ended early Wednesday morning.
"No, first, it's part of our job,” said Kennedy.
Dillard University political analyst Robert Collins, Ph.D., worked on Capitol Hill for two former senators. He thinks it would be a mistake for Republicans to refuse to have witnesses during the trial.
"I think it would be a political misstep, simply because it will give ammunition to the Democrats to say, oh look, it's a cover-up, if this was a real trial, if this was a fair trial there would be witnesses,” Collins said.
Kennedy says if a decision is made to call witnesses during the trial he will support what he called a reciprocity proposal.
"If the prosecution gets additional witnesses, the president gets additional witnesses and they’re entitled to an equal number,” said Kennedy.
Collins said such talks were happening away from the Senate floor.
"There have been some discussions behind the scenes that perhaps if the Democrats were to get John Bolton, the Republicans would get Hunter Biden which they’re obviously interested in,” he said.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress during its investigation of Trump asking Ukraine to launch an investigation into Democrat Joe Biden, who is running for president and Biden’s son, Hunter, who had a lucrative job in Ukraine.
"What did Hunter Biden do for the money?” asked Kennedy during his question-and-answer session with reporters.
Whether or not there are witnesses senators will have an opportunity to ask questions, but only in writing.
"I will be submitting questions, I've already started working on some questions,” Kennedy said.
Cassidy thinks the body politic will be able to decide for itself the merits of the case.
"I do think there will be a thorough vetting of the information and that the American people can judge and then make up their mind if not now, they can make up their mind at the ballot box in November," said Cassidy.
Collins said with the trial so far continuing late into the night some people may tune out.
"The problem with that is that a large part of the arguments will be missed by the average citizen simply because they have things to do, they have to work in the morning,” he said.