Republican Senator: No Rules, Many Options for Senate Impeachment Trial

December 29, 2019 Updated: December 29, 2019
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Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Sunday that there are no real rules for how the Senate will conduct its impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and added that the chamber could call witnesses to testify.

“When it comes to impeachment, the rule is that there are virtually no substantive rules,” Kennedy told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. That means there are several steps the Republican-controlled Senate could take, including forming a committee to hear evidence.

“It’s not a criminal trial. The Senate is not really a jury. It’s both jury and judge. The chief justice is not the judge. He’s the presiding officer. There are no standards of proof. There are no rules of evidence. And every senator, unless we pass a new rule by 51 votes in the Senate, is entitled to approach it his own way,” Kennedy told CNN’s, Jake Tapper.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump earlier this month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges in allegations that stemmed from an effort to have Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. Trump has denied allegations of quid pro quo.

The Senate is expected to hold its trial, which needs a 67-vote supermajority to remove a president, sometime next year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after the Dec. 18 impeachment vote that she would place a hold on sending the two articles to the Senate to determine how the upper chamber will hold its trial.

Republicans have a 53-seat majority in the Senate, while they will need 51 votes to pass a set of rules during the impeachment trial.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) previously told media outlets that he wanted to hear testimony before deciding on whether to subpoena witnesses.

Kennedy told CNN the Senate has numerous options.

“I’m not recommending it, but it’s possible for the Senate, through the presiding officer, the chief justice, to appoint a committee to hear additional evidence, if the Senate thinks it’s necessary,” he said. “I think many positions by many senators are calcified. I can only speak for me. I’m going to keep an open mind. I want to be fair to both sides,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pushed for a trial with testimony from witnesses, including John Bolton, a former national security adviser to Trump, and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. McConnell responded in saying that it’s not a direction he’d like to take.

“If we go down in the witness path, we’re going to want the whistleblower. We’re going to want Hunter Biden,” McConnell told Fox News. “You can see here that this is the kind of mutual assured destruction episode that will go on for a long time.”