Republican senators are split on whether they will watch Wednesday’s first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
Some are dismissing it as a “political circus,” in the words of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, while others say it’s important to keep up with events to “see what America’s going to see,” according to GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
Many GOP senators said their schedules are already full of committee hearings and other Senate duties. There are six committees holding sessions Wednesday, including important testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell before the Joint Economic Committee.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said he already has a 13-hour day scheduled but will still try to catch some of the testimony live on television.
“My counsel is going to watch all of it but I’ll watch as much as I can,” Portman said. “I think we should listen, and I’m a juror, so we should listen to all the information.”
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told reporters he can’t watch it as it happens but will track news coverage.
“I don’t see anytime in my schedule that I would be likely able to watch it tomorrow,” Blunt said. “But I will watch your coverage. I’m interested in what’s said, sure.”
Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said her schedule is tight but she plans on “catching up on it tomorrow night.”
An aide to Susan Collins said the senator from Maine will watch clips of the hearing later in the day. She’s scheduled to attend a Senate Health Committee hearing on the vaping crisis in the morning.
Asked if he was going to watch, GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming was decisive, “No, not at all.”
He invited reporters to cover a hearing he will be chairing as head of the Environment and Public Works Committee titled: “Preserving and expanding clean, reliable nuclear power.”
Some Republicans made clear they have no interest in the House Intelligence Committee hearing, which stems from a investigation process they see as partisan and flawed.
“I think it is a political sideshow and I have more important things to do,” said GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “The House has its job to do. When it comes to us, that’s when our job kicks in.”
“No, I’ve got things to do,” responded Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fierce defender of Trump who raised the idea over the weekend that he would not watch.
Asked if he would tune in, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t directly answer.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to be paying attention to what we’re doing in the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said about the chamber he leads, where consideration of Trump nominees is expected.
“I don’t know,” barked Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who doubted he had time on his schedule, before complaining about what he considers a lack of due process for Trump and House Republicans in the impeachment inquiry.
Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said he would watch, “If I have time in between committees and votes and those sorts of things.”
Asked what he’s looking for from the hearing, he replied: “I’d like to see due process but I think we know how the movie is going to end.”
That remark seemed to irk Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who happened to be standing near Kennedy at a door to the Senate chamber.
“I’d like to see the truth,” she said, a bit under her breath but loud enough to be heard.
Pressed for what she thinks about Republicans not watching, her answer was not under her breath.
“Truth hurts, you know,” she said.