McConnell doesn't rule out witnesses in standoff over Trump impeachment trial

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

The standoff over President Trump’s impeachment trial continued Monday, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeating her demand for a “fair” trial before sending the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, while the two parties dug in on their conditions, including the question of whether to call witnesses and whom they should be.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would consider hearing from witnesses, but gave no indication he would accede to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demand for testimony from key administration aides including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. The White House had blocked them and other administration officials from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry.

McConnell has said he would coordinate his conduct of the trial with Trump, who has called for summoning a very different cast of witnesses, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Appearing on “Fox & Friends,” McConnell said “we haven’t ruled out witnesses,” insisting he wants Trump’s case to be handled just as the Senate conducted President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. That would include opening statements, written questions and answers, and then a decision on which witnesses would be called.

On Wednesday, the House passed the articles of impeachment — one charging abuse of power, the other obstruction of Congress — against Trump. The next step would be to send the articles to the Senate for a trial that could lead to Trump’s acquittal, or his removal from office. But Pelosi has held off presenting them to the Senate, citing doubts that McConnell would permit a “fair” trial.

McConnell has said he would coordinate his efforts with the White House and has made up his mind not to vote for conviction. Removal of the president requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which Republicans control by a 53-47 margin.

The trial cannot begin until Pelosi names impeachment managers — in effect, prosecutors — to transmit those articles to the Senate, and she has said she wants to know the rules for the trial before she decides whom they should be.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he's "not an impartial juror" in Trump's impeachment trial. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“The House cannot choose our impeachment managers until we know what sort of trial the Senate will conduct,” Pelosi tweeted Monday morning. “President Trump blocked his own witnesses and documents from the House, and from the American people, on phony complaints about the House process. What is his excuse now?”

Trump responded in kind.

“Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so,” the president tweeted. “She lost Congress once, she will do it again!”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who played a key role in Trump’s impeachment and has been widely mentioned as a candidate to be one of Pelosi’s impeachment managers, told the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast that the House should not “roll over” and quickly present the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial that would amount to a “farce.”

“We’re not going to participate in a process that makes a mockery out of the Constitution,” Raskin said. “We are not gonna roll over and say, ‘Yeah, you can give us some drive-through justice with one afternoon where everything is dealt with on a motion to dismiss and no evidence is heard.’”

“My position is that, so long as they do not make the most minimal provisions for a fair trial, then we should not participate in a farce,” he added.


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