Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected Democrats’ call for four senior White House officials to be called as witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impending impeachment trial in the Senate.
Speaking from the Senate floor Tuesday morning, McConnell derided the House of Representatives’ handling of the impeachment proceedings, calling the resulting work product “slapdash” and the process the “most unfair” in U.S. history.
McConnell says having these live witnesses as Schumer suggests would create a “nightmarish precedent” for the Senate, arguing it’s not the role of the Senate to do fact-finding and investigating
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 17, 2019
McConnell, who has already said on Fox News that there is no way President Trump will be removed from office (i.e. Trump will be acquitted), said it’s not the job of the Senate to “leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to guilty.”
“The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding […] which House Democrats themselves were too impatient to see through, well, that suggests something to me,” he said. “It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House’s rushed process has been.”
McConnell also rebuked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for his “eleven-paragraph letter,” which was “delivered by way of the news media” as opposed to a face-to-face meeting. Schumer demanded that the Senate subpoena witness testimony from former National Security Advisor John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and two other officials.
McConnell said he still hoped to pursue an in-person conversation with Schumer, and suggested a template similar to that used in the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. During the Clinton proceedings, the Senate agreed to hear arguments from the prosecution and the defense before voting on whether to call witnesses.
McConnell’s announced his decision not to allow the proposed witnesses despite a growing bipartisan consensus among voters – including two out of three Republicans — that the White House officials should testify.
Yes, attitudes toward impeachment are partisan. But as @danbalz & @sfcpoll write: “Bipartisan majorities, including almost 2 in 3 Republicans, also say [#Trump] should allow his top aides to testify, something he blocked during the House inquiry.” https://t.co/RZXgS7pzF0
— EJ Dionne (@EJDionne) December 17, 2019
Schumer immediately responded to McConnell’s diatribe with a floor speech of his own.
“I did not hear a single sentence, a single argument as to why the witnesses I suggested should not give testimony,” Schumer said. “Impeachment trials, like most trials, have witnesses.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer: "The House has built a very strong case against the president. Maybe that's why Leader McConnell doesn't seem to want witnesses." https://t.co/FD6Vi0JoY0 pic.twitter.com/eFALgEQaCz
— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) December 17, 2019
Former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance said this suggests McConnell is orchestrating a cover-up for the president’s benefit.
“Trump has something to hide – that’s why he won’t let the witnesses [Sen. Schumer] requested testify,” Vance wrote in response to the controversy. “Schumer suggests McConnell is participating in a cover up if he won’t conduct a fair trial and notes that all senators will have to go on record as to whether they support this deficient process.”
Trump has something to hide-that’s why he won’t let witnesses @SenSchumer requested testify. Schumer suggests McConnell is participating in a cover up if he won’t conduct a fair trial ¬es all senators will have to go on record as to whether they support this deficient process.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 17, 2019
Vance was not alone in her assessment, as Supreme Court litigator and former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal referred to McConnell’s decision as a “cover up.”
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) December 17, 2019
Schumer on Tuesday afternoon also accused of McConnell of participating in a cover-up.
“What is Leader McConnell afraid of? What is President Trump afraid of?” Schumer asked. “The American people know what’s happening here.”
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]