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Marco Rubio is road testing a new lie about impeachment that shows he's panicked

Marco Rubio is road testing a new lie about impeachment that shows he's panicked

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida indicated just how desperate his party is to avoid the truth about President Donald Trump's conduct on Monday, telling CNN reporter Manu Raju that he doesn't think the Senate impeachment trial should introduce any new facts.

Raju asked whether the Senate should subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton about his role in the Ukraine scandal. He has said he has pertinent information to share about that charges against Trump brought by the House of Representatives, and he announced Monday that he was prepared to comply with a subpoena to testify at the Senate trial, if he receives one.

Rubio said he's not interested in hearing what Bolton has to say.

"I think in my view our inquiry should be based on the testimony that [the House committees] took," he said. "We are acting on articles of impeachment. We should be constrained by the information that those articles are based on."

Rubio reiterated this view on Twitter:

But this view makes no sense, and his claims about how the Senate should handle its trial are entirely baseless. If the Senate only evaluated the information in the House investigation, then it wouldn't need to hold a trial at all; it could just vote on whether to acquit or convict immediately.

The impeachment process is modeled on the criminal justice system; the House acts as a grand jury, and the Senate acts as a jury trial. In criminal trials, new evidence can and is introduced all the time. It's true that the charges are set by the grand jury — or the House in cases of impeachment — but there's no reason to believe that new facts that either support or rebut those charges can't be introduced in the trial. And there's precedent for this in presidential impeachments: In Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, the Senate obtained new witness testimony at private depositions.

Suggesting that it would be at all inappropriate or out of line to introduce new facts at the trial, especially witness testimony that has only now just become available, is a blatant lie from Rubio. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made similar claims, though somewhat more cleverly, to suggest that the Democrats' calls for more witnesses at the trial reveals a lack of confidence in the case the House has made. What this really shows, though, is that Republicans believe Trump is guilty, and they don't want to hear more evidence. If they really believed he was innocent, they'd be eager to have exonerating evidence brought forward. Nothing they do suggests they believe there's exonerating evidence.

Democrats, on the other hand, believe they have a strong case against the president. They just also know that the case hasn't been compelling enough to convince Republicans to break from Trump — perhaps an impossibly high bar. They hope they can use the trial to pry loose even more damning evidence against the president. It likely still won't be enough to convince enough Republicans required to successfully remove the president, but exposing the public to more evidence could further damage his standing.

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