On Tuesday, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed he had wrangled enough of his own caucus together to force Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial to proceed without calling witnesses or asking for documents. It appears that McConnell gathered in some last-minute votes the old-fashioned way: bribery. For example, just five days ago, Sen. Susan Collins was conducting her annual ritual of moderate noises, but by yesterday Collins seemed to have settled comfortably—and predictably—into the fold, after McConnell routed millions to her campaign.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was clearly unimpressed with McConnell’s ability to buy the loyalty of his own caucus members, or with his arguments on impeachment. In a letter to congressional Democrats, Pelosi stated that McConnell had made it clear “his loyalty is to the President and not the Constitution.”
Pelosi called McConnell out on his lies, claiming that the process in Trump’s impeachment was identical to that used with Bill Clinton. She also dismissed McConnell’s claims that he was seeking a fair trial, saying that the process McConnell is pressing is “not only unfair but designed to deprive Senators and the American people of crucial documents and testimony.” As Pelosi noted, during Clinton’s trial, the Senate heard witness testimony. The White House also produced documents in response to both congressional subpoenas and plain old requests.
Finally, Pelosi encouraged every Democratic member of Congress to read a document put together by Sen. Chuck Schumer in which the Senate minority leader detailed the falseness of McConnell’s comparison. Schumer’s document shows that every aspect of Clinton’s trial was wildly different from what McConnell is pushing through the Senate now. Not only did the Senate hear video testimony from multiple witnesses, but those same witnesses also testified under oath before a grand jury. And one of those most outspoken in demanding witnesses at that trial was Mitch McConnell.
As Republicans continue to fume over Pelosi’s refusal to provide the articles of impeachment for an undefined process, McConnell is preparing to counter those claims by getting Republicans to commit to a process that amounts to a pre-exoneration of Trump.
Schumer’s document is worth review by more than just Democrats in Congress. He details how:
- The witnesses sought for Senate testimony—Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, Michael Duffey, and Robert Blair—all refused to testify in the House and rejected congressional subpoenas. Something that did not happen during the Clinton impeachment, where all witnesses appeared on request.
- McConnell is imposing an official policy that includes a pretense that the Senate can decide to hear witnesses after the opening statements, when McConnell has already made it clear there is no way that he’s agreeing to issue any subpoenas.
- In fact, McConnell’s rules don’t even have an official definition of what constitutes opening statements. So McConnell can claim that the opportunity to call witnesses never came up.
- In Clinton’s trial, impeachment managers from the House were allowed to call witnesses. Nothing that McConnell is proposing includes that possibility.
Mitch McConnell may have handed out enough cash to secure the always-up-for-purchase faux-moderates in his collection. But what he’s pushing is not a fair trial, is nothing like what happened in 1999, and is a massive example of Republican willingness to trample their own previously stated principles in order to rescue Trump.
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