Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is continuing his campaign to shape President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in favor of the Republican Party. This Tuesday, he announced that he has the votes lined up to start that trial without even formally voting on whether or not to call witnesses, which Democrats have advocated for in a bid for basic fairness. McConnell’s announcement to Republican Senators that he was ready to blaze ahead without care for that fairness came right after perceived swing vote Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) both said that they supported kicking the question of witnesses down the road.
As McConnell put it:
‘We have the votes, once the impeachment trial has begun, to pass a resolution essentially just saying something very similar to the 100 to nothing vote in the Clinton trial, which sets up, as you may recall, what could best be described maybe as a Phase One.’
Although it’s unclear when exactly the ball will get rolling considering the House’s delay in transmitting their impeachment case, that “Phase One” both included during the Clinton era and is set to now include provisions for basic features of the trial like the presentation of arguments from the House and the questioning of House impeachment managers by Senators. Those questions will be written. After arguments and questioning, then Republicans seem prepared to present a resolution on whether or not to hear from any witnesses. Democrats have sought figures like White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, the latter of whom abruptly announced recently that he was prepared to testify to the Senate if subpoenaed.
Although the Clinton era-Senate did end up hearing from a few witnesses, Democrats have blasted the current iteration of the plan to not even formally consider hearing from witnesses until after opening arguments.
This week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) commented that the plan “is as backwards as it sounds,” insisting separately:
‘A trial isn’t a trial without evidence. A trial without all the facts is a farce. If the president is ultimately acquitted at the end of a sham trial, his acquittal will be meaningless.’
Schumer said on Tuesday that Democrats were prepared to force votes on hearing from witnesses at the start of the trial, which would make Republican Senators go on the record with their support or opposition to fairness. Those forced votes could come in the form of amendments to the so-called “Phase One” trial rules resolution.
In the background, Trump himself has consistently been dishing out pressure on Republicans to follow his lead and completely deny any and all legitimacy to the impeachment proceedings, no matter the evidence implicating the president in a plot to bribe Ukraine. Like a wannabe mob boss, he has put very public pressure on Senate Republicans to fall in line, including with a Monday tweet that read:
‘Congress & the President should not be wasting their time and energy on a continuation of the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax when we have so many important matters pending. 196 to ZERO was the Republican House vote, & we got 3 Dems. This was not what the Founders had in mind!’
Thanks to GOP capitulation, his pressure is proving helpful for him!
Congress & the President should not be wasting their time and energy on a continuation of the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax when we have so many important matters pending. 196 to ZERO was the Republican House vote, & we got 3 Dems. This was not what the Founders had in mind!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2020