“There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment,” he said on the Senate floor a day after he said Republicans secured the necessary votes to start the trial under similar rules that governed President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999.
“The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision,” he added.
McConnell said he wasn’t summarily dismissing the idea of calling witnesses but that the Senate would follow the precedent set during the Clinton trial, where the Senate heard from the prosecution and defense before voting on whether to hear from any witnesses.
“The 1999 precedent does not guarantee witnesses or foreclose witnesses,” McConnell said.
McConnell cited multiple Democratic senators who this week said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should stop withholding the impeachment articles against Trump from the Senate, which has so far prevented the trial from starting.
“My Democratic friends are losing patience, just like the American people are losing patience,” McConnell said. “We all know that senators have a diversity of opinion about President Trump, about the House inquiry, about the optimal structure for a trial, but withstanding all of this, no senator—no senator—should want the House of Representatives to steamroll institutional norms and dictate our business to us.”
Pelosi has said the withholding of the articles was to try to ensure a “fair trial” in the Senate. Democrats control the House and impeached Trump last month in a sharply partisan vote that saw four Democrats not vote for both articles and one defect to the GOP. House Republicans all voted against. Republicans control the Senate, where a supermajority vote is needed to remove Trump from office but only a simple majority is needed to dismiss the impeachment case.
McConnell ended his time on the floor by urging Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has praised Pelosi’s tactics, to stop being “in thrall to the speaker.”
“He does not need to keep colluding with outside efforts to supplant the judgment of his own colleague,” he said. “Stand up for the Senate. Stand up for our institutions. Stand up for the country.”
Pelosi met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday. They held a brief press conference but she didn’t mention impeachment and did not take questions.
Schumer later said on the floor that it doesn’t make sense “for both sides to present their entire case and then decide whether the Senate should request the evidence that we already know is out there.”
“It’s extremely telling that Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are not willing to take a forthright position on whether we should call witnesses and request documents,” Schumer said. “They can only say that the issue should be addressed later. Their only refuge, not much of one, is to kick the can down the road. No one, no one has advanced an argument as to why the four eyewitnesses we have proposed should not testify. No one has advanced an argument as to why the three specific sets of documents related to the charges against the president should not be provided.”
Schumer said the impeachment trial shouldn’t be rushed and if it is, “then the true acquittal the president craves will be unobtainable.”
“The president was impeached because the House believes he tried to shake down a foreign leader into investigating his political opponent, pressuring a foreign power to interfere in our elections. He was impeached because he undertook an unprecedented campaign of obstruction to prevent Congress from investigating his wrongdoing. The articles of impeachment suggest the president committed a grave injury to our democracy,” Schumer added.
“The conduct they describe is exactly what the founders most feared when they forged the impeachment powers of Congress. If the Senate fails to hold a fair hearing of those charges, if one party, the president’s party, decides to rush through a trial without hearing all the facts, witnesses, and documents, it won’t just be the verdict of history that falls heavy on their shoulders. The American people in the here and now will pass a harsh judgment on senators who participated in a cover-up for the president.”