Sen. Mike Lee blames Trump’s impeachment on the ‘deep state’

(AJose Luis Magana | AP file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters on his way to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial quickly burst into a partisan fight Tuesday as proceedings began unfolding at the Capitol. Democrats objected strongly to rules proposed by the Republican leader for compressed arguments and a speedy trial.

Washington • After four days of a debate over rules and arguments over whether to convict and remove President Donald Trump, Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney don’t appear to have changed their minds.

The Utah Republicans staked out different positions heading into the trial, with Lee arguing that he isn’t immune to the politics and blaming a “deep state” effort to oust Trump and Romney saying he has an open mind and wants to listen to both sides.

“The more I learn about this impeachment case,” Lee said in a Facebook video posted Friday, “the more I become completely convinced of the fact that this is a manifestation of the deep state pushing back against a president they deeply despise.”

The deep state, of course, is shorthand for the alleged bureaucratic villains Trump and his supporters have blamed for trying to undermine his administration that promised to drain the swamp.

Romney, meanwhile, hasn't spoken to reporters much since the trial began.

Early in the week, Romney said that he is still in favor of witnesses, though he wants to vote on whether to have more testimony after he hears closing arguments.

“I want to hear what the various cases are that are presented by both sides before we have that vote,” Romney said.

The freshman Utah senator said he’s going into the trial as an impartial juror even if the president once called him a “pompous ass,” as a reporter reminded him this week.

“That may be as accurate as it is irrelevant,” Romney said. “I have a responsibility to honor my oath that I've taken at the beginning of this trial, which is to render impartial justice.”

No memento impeachment

Sadly, for political history buffs, the impeachment trial of Trump isn't coming with keepsakes, breaking with the tradition of the last two times the House has brought charges and the Senate tried a president.

The gallery passes issued for the trial simply note: “116th Congress/United States Senate/” with admission to the gallery overlooking the chamber. While dated the passes make no mention of the impeachment trial, similar to the ones issued by the House during the proceeding that led to the two articles of impeachment.

That’s different than passes handed out during the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 or that of President Bill Clinton in 1998-1999. Those passes prominently noted it was for an impeachment.

Trump wants to confront accusers

Trump told reporters at an economic forum in Switzerland that he would “sort of love” to attend the impeachment trial in the Senate so he could confront his accusers.

I’d love to go. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that be beautiful?” Trump said. “I’d sort of love — sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces. I’d love to do it,” Trump said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., quickly responded to the president's comments and tweeted that Trump could be his guest.

Trump, though, isn’t likely to appear in the gallery to watch the proceedings. He noted that his attorneys probably wouldn’t want him there.

Republicans reportedly warned

The GOP majority in the Senate has so far been in lockstep as members approached the impeachment trial. All of them voted to shoot down amendments by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at the start of the trial, though it’s unclear if that party line will hold on votes to allow witnesses as Democrats want.

Now, CBS News reports that GOP senators have been warned not to break ranks.

Vote against the president, and your head will be on a pike,' the senators were warned, according to CBS News, citing an unnamed source. It wasn’t clear who had relayed that message.

What’s next?

The Senate will resume the trial on Saturday at 8 a.m. Mountain Time with the president’s defense team getting its chance to offer opening arguments. The president’s lawyers have 24 hours over three days, though they’ve signaled they may not take all of their time.

So, if things go as planned, Trump’s defense will wrap up possibly as early as Monday and senators will get a chance to ask questions — submitted in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial — on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the Senate could debate adding witnesses. If that vote fails, the Senate could move into a closed session to deliberate and vote as early as February 1.

As a reminder, Trump is set to give his State of the Union to Congress on Feb. 4.