McConnell to GOP on impeachment rules: I have the votes
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that “we have the votes” to pass an organizing resolution to start President’s Trump impeachment trial without requiring witness testimony.
“We have the votes, once the impeachment trial has begun, to pass a resolution essentially the same, very similar to the 100 to nothing vote in the Clinton trial which sets up, as you may recall, what could best be described maybe as a Phase One,” McConnell said.
McConnell told Republican senators he had the votes during a closed-door caucus lunch before he spoke publicly.
The Hill reported Monday night that McConnell had the votes after two GOP swing votes, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), said they would back McConnell’s position that the Senate should follow the precedent of the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Clinton and defer until later in the process the question of calling additional witnesses.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told reporters that the GOP leader confirmed he has the votes, but that “shouldn’t be a surprise.”
“The leader has the votes to make it clear that the Clinton impeachment rules would be adopted by the Senate,” Rounds said.
The question of hearing from additional witnesses was voted on in 1999 during the middle of Clinton’s trial.
The resolution passed at the start of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial set forth time for the House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team to present their opening arguments and for senators to submit questions in writing but made no specific requirement for additional witness testimony or document review.
The Senate at the time chose to depose three witnesses via videotape, including former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose testimony was later played on a monitor on the Senate floor.
McConnell said on Tuesday the first phase of the Trump trial would be similar, with both House impeachment managers and Trump’s team presenting their opening arguments and questions from senators.
“At that point during the Clinton trial, the issue of the appropriateness of calling witnesses was addressed; obviously that is the most contentious part of these proceedings. And that will be addressed at that time and not before the trial begins,” McConnell said.
The GOP leader declined to explain just how “similar” the organizing resolution for Trump’s trial will be to the resolution passed at the start of former President Clinton’s trial.
“We’re going to have a similar resolution. It may not be word-for-word exactly the same,” McConnell said. “We’ll be glad to show it to you when we unveil it.”
The announcement is a blow to Democrats who wanted one resolution at the outset that would establish both the rules for impeachment and include a specific deal on witnesses.
But they needed four Republicans to vote with them to get the 51 votes needed to require a deal on witnesses at the outset.
Even though McConnell has the votes to force through his own impeachment rules, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged on Tuesday that Democrats will force votes at the start of the trial on calling impeachment witnesses.
“Make no mistake, on the question of witnesses and documents, Republicans may run but they can’t hide. There will be votes at the beginning on whether to call the four witnesses we’ve proposed and subpoena the documents we’ve identified,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
He added that “America and the eyes of history will be watching what my Republican colleagues do.”
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