Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by Majority Whip John Thune, R-SD, left, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, tells reporters he has secured enough Republican votes to start President Donald Trump's impeachment trial and postpone a decision on witnesses and documents Democrats want, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 7, 2020. (Photo: AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he will launch President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on his terms, without any agreement on whether to call witnesses, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the abuse and obstruction articles to the Senate.
“There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure,” said McConnell, R-Ky. “We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. The House Democrats’ turn is over.”
The trial on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges passed by the House last month could begin as soon as this week if Pelosi, D-Calif., sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
But even as McConnell spoke from the Senate floor, Pelosi was giving no sense of her plans. In a closed-door meeting with the House Democratic caucus, she stuck to talking about Iran’s ballistic missile attacks on bases in Iraq in retaliation for the Trump administration’s killing of Iran’s top general, according to several Democrats in the room.
Back on the Senate floor, Democratic leader Charles Schumer pressed on with his contention that any trial would be unfair unless senators could consider witnesses and documents connected to Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate the family of Democratic rival Joe Biden.
“The evidence should inform arguments in a trial,” said Schumer, D-NY. “Evidence should not be an afterthought.”
McConnell announced Tuesday that he has support from the majority of senators to start a trial structured like the last one, against President Bill Clinton in 1999. Those proceedings also began without an agreement on witnesses.
“We have the votes,” McConnell told reporters.
The contours of a Senate trial have been in dispute for weeks. Pelosi is delaying transmission of the articles as Democrats press for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton and other new witnesses.
“Sadly, Leader McConnell has made clear that his loyalty is to the President and not the Constitution,” Pelosi wrote to colleagues late Tuesday. She said the process he is outlining “is not only unfair but designed to deprive Senators and the American people of crucial documents and testimony.″
Pelosi told House leaders in a private meeting Tuesday that she believed the strategy was working, according to those in that meeting. She called on McConnell to “immediately” reveal the details of his proposal.
“People are united,” said Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California about the mood in the House caucus.
McConnell has resisted calling new witnesses and expects the trial to end with the GOP Senate majority voting to acquit the president of the charges, and without Trump’s removal from office.
Schumer called McConnell’s plan for the trial a “trap” and a “cover-up.” He pledged to force votes anyway on Bolton and the others.
“Whoever heard of a trial without witnesses and documents?” the New York Democrat said. He asked Trump what he has to hide. “Witnesses and documents: fair trial. No witnesses and documents: cover- up.”
Republicans countered that Democrats rushed to impeach and then delayed the process. Pelosi has yet to choose House impeachment managers for the trial, a politically sensitive next step, with many lawmakers vying to be candidates.
The House impeached Trump last month on charges that he abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine’s new leader to investigate Democrats, using as leverage $400 million in military assistance that is critical for the ally as it counters Russia at its border.
The funding for Ukraine was eventually released but only after Congress intervened. Trump insists he did nothing wrong.