Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected a request by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to simultaneously agree to witnesses and the parameters of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, calling it a “strange request” that has no precedent in impeachment proceedings.
“It is not the Senate’s job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to ‘guilty.’ That would hardly be impartial justice,” McConnell said, according to The New York Times.
Speaking from the Senate today, McConnell described the proposal from the Democratic leader as “dead wrong” and warned that it “could set a nightmarish precedent for our institution.”
McConnell’s comments are the first time he’s publicly responded to Schumer’s offer, which was sent in a letter Sunday night. In it, Schumer outlined the Democrats’ opening proposal on how the Senate should handle the anticipated impeachment trial, according to CBS News. McConnell’s harsh rebuke comes as the House is set to vote Wednesday on Trump’s two impeachment charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Schumer has called for one resolution that would cover procedures, as well as for calling specific witnesses, to be passed at the start of the trial. For his part, McConnell has stated that the trial should follow the precedent set by the Clinton proceedings.
Schumer has defended his choice to send the letter. Discussing it publicly, he said that he had sought meetings with McConnell about impeachment trial rules.
However, McConnell took a swipe at Schumer, claiming the New York Democrat “decided to short-circuit the customary and collegial” process of establishing trial rules.
“The preferable path would have been an in-person conversation, which nonetheless, I still hope to pursue,” McConnell said.
In his letter, Schumer requested that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney’s senior adviser Robert Blair, former national security adviser John Bolton and Office of Management and Budget staffer Michael Duffey all testify as part of a Senate trial. The White House blocked these and other administration officials from doing so during the House impeachment inquiry.
McConnell said from the Senate floor that he saw no reason for the Senate to immediately agree to take testimony from officials who could help make a case against Trump on behalf of the Democrats.
However, Schumer noted today that he did not “hear a single argument” for why the requested witnesses should not give testimony, adding that “impeachment trials, like most trials, have witnesses.”
Many Republicans in the Senate have explicitly stated they wish for a speedy trial, perhaps accelerated by calling no witnesses at all.
In recent days, the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate have challenged Trump to publicly testify before House committees and in the anticipated Senate trial, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.