WASHINGTON — The difference between Hawaii’s U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono when it comes to the impeachment of President Donald Trump lies somewhere between hope and pessimism.

On Tuesday, as the Senate kicked off proceedings in Trump’s trial, Schatz said he was working behind the scenes to convince his Republican colleagues of the value of fairness.

Ever since the House Democrats passed two articles of impeachment related to Trump’s dealings in Ukraine, Schatz has been a vociferous critic of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow witnesses to testify.

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono reads documents in the U.S. Capitol building while preparing for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2020

Schatz, in particular, has repeatedly pointed out that all it takes is four Republicans breaking with McConnell and siding with the Democrats to change the complexion of the trial.

Schatz told Civil Beat on Tuesday that he’s had “exclusively private conversations” with some of his Republican colleagues in an effort to sway them to his side, but he refused to divulge any details.

“I won’t get into who I’m talking to or what I’m talking about otherwise I’ll lose their trust,” Schatz said as he prepared to enter the Senate chamber.

“I’m having those conversations, but I’m not specifying with which members.”

Hirono, on the other hand, says she’s given up trying to lobby those who are already in lockstep with the president. She doesn’t believe there is anything she can say or do that will change their minds, especially in such a partisan environment.

“What is the point of doing that?” Hirono asked. “I’m more interested in letting the American public know what in the hell is going on around here and that is that this is a short-circuited, so-called trial.”

The clash over McConnell’s proposed rules spanned much of the afternoon and into the evening with Democrats winning few concessions. One small victory is a change that will give each side 24 hours to present their arguments over three days instead of two.

A decision on whether witnesses will be called will not come until after both sides have presented their opening arguments in the case and senators have had an opportunity to ask questions.

Both Schatz and Hirono are liberal Democrats who don’t have to worry about an electoral challenge in 2020.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said he’s still working behind the scenes to change the minds of his GOP colleagues on impeachment. Nick Grube/Civil Beat

Not only that, they represent one of the bluest states in the nation, meaning they don’t have to answer to angry Republicans the way some of their colleagues might in swing districts that went for Trump in 2016.

Both avoided questions about Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who many look to as a Republican swing vote along with senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah.

Hawaii has a special relationship with Alaska in Washington, D.C., in part because they are the only two non-contiguous states.

Murkowsi has worked closely with both of Hawaii’s senators on several pieces of legislation, including provisions in recent years to help the military curb the spread of child pornography and force the U.S. to better monitor volcanic activity.

Hirono said she doesn’t discourage her fellow Democrats from trying to change Republicans’ minds on impeachment. She just says she’s been around politics long enough to see which way the political winds have blown in the Republican Party.

“They need to make their own decisions as to what is the right thing to do,” she said. “You don’t convince people to do the right thing. They either do it or they don’t.”

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