McConnell: Senate Cannot Hold Trump Impeachment Trial Until House Sends Articles

January 3, 2020 Updated: January 4, 2020
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The Senate cannot hold President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial until the House turns over articles of impeachment, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Their turn is over. They’ve done enough damage. It’s the Senate’s turn now to render sober judgment as the framers envisioned. But we can’t hold the trial without the articles,” said McConnell on the floor of the Senate on Friday. “So, for now, we are content to continue the ordinary business of the Senate while House Democrats continue to flounder.”

After the House voted mainly along party lines to impeach President Donald Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated she would withhold sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The move triggered confusion among members of Congress and legal experts.

During his speech on the floor, McConnell showed no signs of negotiating with House Democrats. Previously, he told news outlets that he wanted the swift acquittal of Trump, which Democrats have decried.

In the Senate, acquittal seems likely as Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, and it takes a 67-vote supermajority to convict a president while the House only requires a simple majority to impeach. In the history of the United States, the Senate has never removed a president in the trial phase.

“Their turn is over,” McConnell said of the House. “It’s the Senate’s turn now to render sober judgment as the framers intended.”

But at the same time, Pelosi seemed not willing to budge on sending the articles, either.

Pelosi responded in a statement on Friday that the Senate majority leader “made clear that he will feebly comply with President Trump’s cover-up of his abuses of power and be an accomplice to that cover-up.”

“The American people deserve the truth. Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution. The GOP Senate must immediately proceed in a manner worthy of the Constitution and in light of the gravity of the president’s unprecedented abuses. No one is above the law, not even the president,” she said.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have called for witnesses to be subpoenaed for the Senate trial, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former Trump adviser John Bolton. After McConnell, Schumer said on the floor that the “issue holding up the Senate trial” is “whether there will be witnesses or documents.”

Regardless, McConnell told his fellow senators that he believes the two articles will be “heading the Senate’s way soon.”

“By spring, Speaker Pelosi told the country, ‘Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,’” he said, speaking on the Senate floor in Washington. “That was the speaker less than a year ago.”