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Sen. Mike Lee decries impeachment managers’ ‘theatrics’ as Trump trial opens

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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, right, walks to the Senate chamber for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Washington.

Steve Helber, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee complained about House Democrats’ “theatrics” as opening arguments began Wednesday in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump

“They’re behaving a bit as a teenager might when they’re losing in the game of Monopoly badly and rather than suffer the indignity of defeat, simply stand up and knock the board with all the game pieces and watch as the shoe and the wheelbarrow fall to the ground,” the Utah Republican said. “That’s what’s going on here and it’s shameful.”

Lee told KSL Newsradio that he expects more “theatrics” from House impeachment managers, adding Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday admonished Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Rep Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., for accusing Trump’s defense team and senators of acting in bad faith.

Meantime, two Utah progressive groups and Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes weighed in Wednesday on opposite sides of the trial.

The Alliance for a Better Utah and Salt Lake Indivisible continued to advocate for a full and fair trial, including pertinent evidence and calling witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia, told a congressional committee that Bolton wanted no part of the White House’s “drug deal” to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is doing his best to keep witnesses from testifying, the groups said.

“Why would an innocent man and the people charged with judging him not want to hear all relevant evidence? The rule of law means that we pursue truth, regardless of outcomes,” they said in a statement. “Senators Romney and Lee do the U.S. Constitution and all Utahns a disservice by not insisting that all the facts come out, by not insisting upon the ascertainable truth.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he would like to hear from witnesses such as Bolton.

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters on his way to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 for the impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump.

Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press

Chase Thomas, Better Utah executive director, said he’s encouraged by Romney’s open-minded approach, while he’s discouraged and disappointed that Lee has already made up his mind.

“It seems like every day more evidence, more information is coming out and it’s more and more damning,” he said.

Thomas said he hopes Utah’s senators would do what’s best for the nation, “not just a political party or someone in that party.”

Reyes joined 20 other GOP attorneys general in a “friend of the Senate” letter calling the House Democrats’ articles of impeachment a partisan political ploy that will undermine the democratic process and destroy the separation of powers. 

Impeachment should never be a partisan response to one party losing a presidential election, Reyes said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the Democrats never set out to ascertain the truth and have weaponized a process that should only be initiated in exceedingly rare circumstances,” he said. “Impeachment casts a shadow over the office of the presidency, undermines constitutional authority, and hurts the interests of the United States at home and abroad.”

Lee said the House heard from dozens of witnesses, and there are no genuine issues of material fact to warrant calling more.

“Even if you accept the allegation as they have presented, even if you accept what the other witnesses have said John Bolton would say, even that testimony isn’t enough to make a difference as to whether or not this is an impeachable offense,” he said.

The Senate doesn’t bring witnesses, he said, in circumstances that would pierce privileges that are based on the constitutional protections of separation of powers nor to satisfy people demanding to hear from them.

“I’m more than willing to have witness if there is a genuine issue of material fact that needs to be litigated through witnesses in the Senate,” Lee said. “But we can’t and should never do that just for show. There is enough of this that is for show already.”