Trump impeachment: White House discusses impeachment and Senate trial with Republican senators

The White House is preparing for a Senate trial, should the House impeach President Trump. White House counsel Pat Cipollone met with several Republican senators Thursday morning to discuss impeachment strategy and the best approach, should a Senate trial be held, according to a senior Trump administration official.

At this point, the official said, the White House and Republicans prefer a trial of some length on the merits, rather than a quick vote or dismissal. This would allow the president to have the defense with lawyers and witnesses he has long sought.  

But the White House is not assuming yet that the president will be impeached by the House. 

“They think that they’ve got a better than 50-50 that maybe this doesn’t happen in the House, but I don’t know. I have no idea,” Senator Lindsey Graham said, after the White House meeting with Cipollone. Graham also pointed out the Senate could agree to dismiss a trial through a procedural vote with a simple majority of 51 votes, but he also added the idea that the Senate would dismiss a trial before the case is presented is a “non-starter.”

On Thursday, Graham requested records from the State Department relating to contact between the Obama administration, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and Ukraine. The letter also seeks all documents and communications related to a 2016 meeting with Devon Archer, a business partner of Hunter Biden, and then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

It was not immediately clear if the State Department would comply.

Separately, President Trump has been holding weekly lunches and meetings, generally on Thursdays, with Republican senators, and sometimes House members. These meetings are described as casual in nature and cover a range of administration priorities, but impeachment is also discussed. This is seen as a way for the president to provide his thoughts on the impeachment hearings and strategy.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump was joined by senators who have not been shy about criticizing him, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney. Also present for the lunch were Senators Graham, Charles Grassley, Rand Paul, John Hoeven, Johnny Isakson, James Lankford and Shelley Moore Capito.

Paula Reid and Christina Ruffini contributed to this report.

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