Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wasted no time taunting House Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for threatening to withhold their “slapdash” articles of impeachment, pushed through on a party-line vote Wednesday night, if the Senate doesn’t accede to their wishes and allow Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to repair major holes in the Dems case against President Donald Trump.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate Thursday morning, McConnell threatened to cancel the Senate trial altogether if Democrats refuse to hand over the articles of impeachment, as is required by the rules outlining the impeachment process and mocked Pelosi and her team for getting “cold feet” after rushing through the impeachment process in the House.
“Mr. President, looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial,” McConnell chuckled. “They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they’re content to sit on their hands.”
“This is really comical,” he added. “Democrats’ own actions concede that their allegations are unproven. The articles aren’t just unproven, they’re also constitutionally incoherent.”
Schumer and others are demanding a full trial in the Senate and want the ability to bring witnesses and take testimonly in an effort to repair gaping holes in the House Democrats’ case against President Donald Trump. McConnell, who reserves the right to schedule, control, and manage the Senate trial, is having none of it.
He also chided Pelosi over the idea that, somehow, the President will suffer if Democrats delay the Senate trial, and offered to take the heat from Pelosi’s Democratic base for refusing to get the trial moving quickly.
“It’s beyond me how the Speaker and Democratic Leader in the Senate think withholding the articles of impeachment and not sending them over gives them leverage,” McConnell said. “Frankly, I’m not anxious to have the trial. If she thinks her case is so weak she doesn’t want to send it over, throw me into that briar patch.”
Democrats are hoping that a later trial will injure the President more effectively, putting him on the defensive closer to Election Day, while avoiding Senate rules that require at least three leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to leave the campaign trail for weeks just as the primaries are getting started. They also seem concerned that the White House will put up a more effective fight in the Senate, where Republicans — not Democrats — are in charge of the process.
McConnell has offered a single olive branch to Schumer and Pelosi: instead of relitigating the Senate trial process, he says he’ll simply reinstate the rules Democrats drafted in 1998, ahead of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, which resulted in a partisan acquittal.
“In 1999, all 100 senators agreed on a simple pre-trial resolution that set up a briefing, opening arguments, senators’ questions, and a vote on a motion to dismiss,” McConnell added in his remarks. “Senators reserved all other questions, such as witnesses, until the trial was underway. That was the unanimous bipartisan precedent from 1999. Put first things first, lay the bipartisan groundwork, and leave mid-trial questions to the middle of the trial.”
“If 100 senators thought this approach was good enough for President Clinton,” McConnell added, “it ought to be good enough for President Trump.”
He probably won’t find many Democrats to agree, however, as he pointed out earlier on in his remarks. Impeachment hasn’t been on the table for just a few weeks. It’s been on the table since January 21, 2017.