Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he has the votes he needs to forge ahead with his plan to begin President Trump’s impeachment trial with no prior agreement on witness testimony.
“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,” says the Washington Post, citing two unnamed officials “familiar” with McConnell’s remarks on Tuesday.
“Democrats immediately criticized McConnell for moving forward without them,” Politico says.
”That’s not how you run a country. That’s not how you run the United States Senate,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
McConnell has made no secret of his support for Trump, stating that he will “coordinate with the president’s lawyers” and that there’s “no chance” Trump will be thrown out of office.
McConnell appears to have gotten the votes he needed on the witness question from two key moderates, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
On Monday evening, Collins and Murkowski “backed McConnell’s position that the Senate should follow the precedent of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial and defer until later in the process the question of calling additional witnesses,” says The Hill.
“The process moved to a period during which the Senate debated and voted that three witnesses should be deposed. I believe that this process — the Clinton approach — worked well,” Collins told reporters.
Murkowski said that “questions about whether former national security adviser John Bolton and other key witnesses should testify should be discussed only after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate,” The Hill says.
Pelosi has held on to the documents as Democrats sought guarantees about the scope of a trial, including witnesses. She’s now under growing pressure — including from some in her own party — to let the proceedings begin.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Pelosi “has to make a decision based on her own judgment, but my [Republican] colleagues will be in effect aiding and abetting a coverup.”
Asked if there was any point in continuing to hold the articles if Republicans are dug in, the Post says, Blumenthal added merely that:
“Well, there has to be a trial, the Constitution requires it.”