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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans 13 things to know for today about coronavirus 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 TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar 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 PelosiTrump says he opposes mail-in voting for November On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans The bipartisan neutering of the Congressional Budget Office 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 BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office 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 CollinsGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus GOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus 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.