McConnell: Senate should stick with Clinton 'precedent' for Trump trial

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday said the Senate should follow the "precedent" of then-President Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial as lawmakers debate the rules for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE's proceeding.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, warned that House Democrats were trying to get the chamber to "deviate from a unanimous bipartisan precedent set in the 1999 trial of President Clinton and write new rules for President Trump." 

"House Democrats' hunger to break on Senate precedents just like they broke their own precedents could not be more telling. But the Senate does not just bob along on the currents of every news cycle," McConnell said.

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He added that the "House may have been content to scrap their own norms to hurt President Trump, but that is not the Senate."

McConnell's comments come as he and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) remain stalemated in their negotiations for the rules of Trump's trial. The talks could come to a head within days with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) expected to transmit the articles as soon as this week.

McConnell has said he wants to pass two resolutions, similar to the Clinton trial. The first, passed at the outset of the trial, would establish the rules. A second resolution, passed after opening arguments and questions from senators, would determine which if any witnesses will be called.

Three witnesses gave closed-door depositions during the Clinton proceeding, though McConnell, who supported witnesses in 1999, has said he does not want witnesses as part of Trump's trial.

"The Senate has a unanimous bipartisan precedent for when to handle mid-trial questions such as witnesses — in the middle of the trial," McConnell said on Monday. "That was good enough for President Clinton, so it ought to be good enough for President Trump. Fair is fair."

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But Democrats want one resolution at the outset of the trial that tackles both the rules and a deal on specific witnesses. They've asked for four witnesses including former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonEx-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity MORE, who said earlier Monday that he will testify if the Senate issues a subpoena. 

Without a broader deal between Schumer and McConnell, 51 senators will be able to determine the impeachment trial process, including if witnesses will be called.  

If McConnell could hold together most of his 53-member caucus he could pass the impeachment trial rules that he wants over the objections of Democrats. The impeachment trial is expected to be discussed at the Senate GOP's closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday.  

Democrats need four GOP senators to side with them in order to call a witness or compel Ukraine-related documents. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Maine) said last week that she is "open" to witnesses but that a decision on who, if anyone, should be called should wait until after initial arguments and senators are given a chance to ask questions.