Arizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema
McConnell digs in on impeachment: 'Non-starter' for Pelosi to influence trial
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dug in Friday on the stalemate over impeachment, lashing out at Democrats and saying it was a "non-starter" that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would play any role in determining the trial proceedings.
McConnell, speaking on impeachment for the first time in nearly two weeks, blasted House Democrats as having "cold feet" after Pelosi declined to say when she would transmit the two articles against President Trump.
"We've heard it claimed that the same House Democrats who botched their own process should get to reach over here into the Senate and dictate our process," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
"Let me clarify Senate rules and Senate history for those who may be confused," McConnell added. "First, about this fantasy that the Speaker of the House will get to hand-design the trial proceedings in the Senate, that's obviously a non-starter."
Pelosi has held the two articles, saying she wants details about what the Senate trial would look like. Some House Democrats have argued that if they can't get a deal on "fair" rules, including on witnesses and documents, that the articles should never be sent to the GOP-controlled Senate.
Pelosi did not speak to McConnell over the holiday recess, according to a Pelosi aide. The aide added that the Speaker was also not planning to negotiate with McConnell on the trial, saying she is leaving that up to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Schumer and McConnell are currently at loggerheads over the process for the impeachment trial. The two traded barbs during back-to-back floor speeches from the Senate floor on Friday, underscoring that the two-week break did little to shift the battle lines in the standoff.
Schumer wants one resolution at the outset of the trial that would tackle both the rules of the proceeding and an agreement on specific witnesses. He knocked McConnell on Friday for using "feeble talking points" and "finger-pointing and name-calling" instead of explaining why the Senate shouldn't call witnesses.
"The Republican leader hasn't given one good reason why there shouldn't be relevant witnesses or relevant documents. We did not hear one from Leader McConnell today or any day," Schumer added.
Democrats believe a steady stream of news released over the past two weeks, including newly unredacted emails between the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget, bolster their case for calling witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
"Since Congress recessed for the holidays, there have been several, several events that have significantly bolstered my argument for four specific witnesses and specific categories of documents," Schumer said.
But McConnell appeared unmoved on Friday, saying he wants two resolutions, similar to the 1999 Clinton trial. The first would lay out the rules for the proceeding, while the second would determine which, if any, witnesses are called to testify.
"The structure for this impeachment trial should track with the structure of the Clinton trial. We have a precedent here. That means two phases," McConnell said.
"I believe we should simply repeat that unanimous bipartisan precedent at this time as well. That's my position. President Trump should get the same treatment that every single senator thought was fair with President Clinton," McConnell added.
Democrats believe that if they agree to punt on witnesses until after the trial, McConnell would try to wrap up the proceeding without allowing witnesses to be called.
Democrats need 51 votes, including four GOP senators, to successfully call a witness or compel documents. They would need three GOP senators to block McConnell from moving to vote on the two articles of impeachment without calling witnesses.
Democrats are trying to drive a wedge between McConnell and rank-and-file Republicans on the process for a trial, stressing that it will be up to a majority of the chamber, not solely McConnell, to decide the procedure.
"It may feel like we are no closer to establishing the rules for a Senate trial than we last met, but the question - the vital question of whether or not we have a fair trial - ultimately rests with a majority of the senators in this chamber," Schumer said.
Democrats have criticized McConnell over his pledge that he will not be an impartial witness. McConnell has also said that he personally does not believe witnesses need to be called. He previously supported having witnesses during the Clinton trial.
McConnell returned fire on Friday, noting that Schumer pledged to vote against convicting Clinton during his 1998 Senate campaign.
"I respect our friends across the aisle, but it appears that one symptom of Trump derangement syndrome is also a bad case of amnesia," McConnell said.
He added that during the trial "a senator's role in an impeachment trial is nothing, nothing like the job of jurors in the legal system."