Who needs witnesses when you’ve already decided to acquit?
That’s what Mitch McConnell wants to know.
The Senate Majority Leader on Tuesday told the GOP he’s set to move ahead with Donald Trump’s trial without an agreement with Democrats on witnesses, or anything else for that matter. Nancy Pelosi has rankled Republicans (and some in her own party) by refusing to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The idea is to secure concessions from McConnell, who has made it abundantly clear that he does not intend to take the proceedings any semblance of serious.
“McConnell said he has the minimum of 51 votes to begin the trial in the format that he has long envisioned: opening arguments for both the House impeachment managers and for Trump’s defense team, as well as ample time for questioning by senators”, The Washington Post said Tuesday, citing a pair of sources on the Hill.
McConnell would hold the vote once he receives the articles from the House. After the first phase of the trial is complete, he would return to the issue of witnesses, apparently.
Obviously, John Bolton’s Monday announcement that he would be willing to testify has the potential to be a game changer. But as the Post goes on to say, it did not seem to move the needle for Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, who, along with Mitt Romney, are generally seen as bastions of relative sanity in a party gone mad.
McConnell is harkening back to Bill Clinton’s impeachment in an effort to forestall a decision on witnesses. “The Clinton trial process provided a pathway”, Romney remarked on Tuesday. “And presuming we have a process like that, again I would be able to support the Clinton impeachment process”.
Democrats are understandably wary. Mark Warner charged that McConnell’s plan “doesn’t pass the smell test”, for example.
Chuck Schumer, in a speech on the floor, warned the GOP against perpetuating an “awful coverup”. “A trial isn’t a trial without evidence”, Schumer said. “If the president is ultimately acquitted at the end of a sham trial, his acquittal will be meaningless”.
That won’t stop Trump from claiming he’s been “totally exonerated”, though.
After all, the White House claimed the Mueller report showed “no obstruction”, when, in fact, it made a compelling case for Trump being jailed were it not for his immunity.