Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that he has enough support from Republicans in the Senate to set the rules for President Trump’s impeachment trial, disregarding Democrats’ efforts to call new witnesses to testify against the president.
The response from the Democrats was that they still want more details on the Senate’s trial process before they take any action, although their desires mean nothing if the Republicans who control the Senate remain united.
According to Democrats, the Senate trial should hear testimony from at least three White House officials as well as John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, about the president’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son.
McConnell has denied the request, and is instead seeking a quick trial based on evidence collected in the House of Representatives before it voted last month to impeach Trump.
The majority of Republicans have agreed to leave the decision until after the trial has started.
“Obviously, that is the most contentious part of these proceedings and that will be addressed at that time and not before the trial begins,” said McConnell.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated that at least 51 of the 53 Republicans in the Senate were backing that plan for the Senate trial. He also noted that the plan is similar to an arrangement made during the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton after Republicans and Democrats were similarly deadlocked over the question of witness testimony.
The House has charged the president with abusing his power for personal gain as well as obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
Trump says he did nothing wrong, and has accused the “impeachment hoax” as being a partisan bid to undo his election win in 2016.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly declined to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate as required, which has delayed any possibility of a trial. Her hope was to win support for the introduction of new witnesses and documents by Democrats that could help their case for removing Trump from the White House.
In her letter to House Democrats, she said she needed to see the details of McConnell’s plan so that “we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate.”
However, due to the united front among Republican senators, McConnell has denied that request and claimed victory of the standoff with Pelosi, according to Republican strategist Alex Conant.
“Pelosi started down this pathway without a clear exit ramp, and McConnell just took control of the car,” said Conant, who added that the Senate Republican leader was in a position to control the process unless Democrats co-opted four Republicans.
The Senate trial is expected to result in Trump’s acquittal before the 2020 presidential election campaign starts to really get underway. Currently, no Republicans have voiced support for removing Trump from office.