Monday night, after two “moderate” Republican members of the Senate, Rep. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Susan Collins (R-ME) declared that they were fine abiding by the Senate impeachment rules set in 1998 — at the dawn of then-President Bill Clinton’s Senate trial — reports indicated that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had enough votes to go forward with the second half of President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings without having to negotiate with Democrats on the subject.
As soon as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) submits the articles of impeachment to the Senate, a trial can go forward — only Pelosi now says she won’t turn over the House articles until McConnell publishes details of how the Senate trial will be conducted, bring the process to an impasse.
Tuesday night, Pelosi released a note, sent to McConnell, demanding that McConnell give House Dems an outline of the Senate trial and “immediately” publish a resolution detailing the Senate trial rules, according to CNN.
“It is important that he immediately publish this resolution, so that, as I have said before, we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate,” Pelosi wrote.
She also, according to the Washington Post, “told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that she will not send articles of impeachment to the Senate until she learns more about how the chamber would conduct a potential trial, according to three people present for her remarks who were not authorized to comment publicly.”
Pelosi, unfortunately, has no control over the Senate, and the Senate can begin a trial with or without Pelosi’s assent — something Democrats apparently didn’t consider when they pledged to withhold the articles of impeachment from McConnell until McConnell agreed to allow witnesses to testify during the Senate trial.
They also didn’t expect that McConnell exercises near-expert control over his caucus. Sen. Chuch Schumer (D-NY) tried, valiantly, to make witnesses a “wedge” issue among the GOP, in the hopes that middle-of-the-road legislators like Murkowski and Collins would pressure McConnell to allow witnesses, so that the trial would appear “fair,” even though House Democrats could have allowed key White House officials like acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify in their impeachment inquiry but chose not to, likely out of fear that Mulvaney — and former national security advisor John Bolton — would provide information that would exonerate, not implicate, President Donald Trump.
McConnell has been steadfast in his opposition to witnesses, referencing the 1998 rules repeatedly and mentioning, regularly, that they passed by unanimous, bipartisan consent. He’s also been clear in noting that Democrats only want to call witnesses in the Senate trial because the House impeachment inquiry left open questions and Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) Intelligence Committee hearings didn’t conclusively prove any criminal behavior on the part of the White House or President Trump and Schumer and Pelosi want desperately to correct that oversight.
The 1998 rules allow for both sides to present their cases to the Senate, and then a question and answer period can begin, at which point, the Senate body overseeing the trial may decide to call witnesses in order to complete the story. That’s good enough for McConnell, and, apparently, for Murkowski and Collins, who, Monday, ruined Schumer’s dream of a GOP fracture.