Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted on Tuesday that he had secured enough support from his Republican majority to begin the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump without calling witnesses demanded by Democrats.
The support for McConnell is a direct rejection of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom Republicans accused of attempting to run the Senate trial like she managed the impeachment proceedings in the lower chamber.
Specifically, Democrats hoped to peel support away from McConnell by convincing moderate Republicans including Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine to support their push to include witnesses in any upcoming trial.
But in the end, both of them sided with McConnell’s plan to use the impeachment trial model set for then-President Bill Clinton instead.
In Clinton’s impeachment, the House managers were invited to present their case and the Clinton team was given the opportunity to refute and/or present the president’s arguments.
“What was good enough for President Clinton is good enough for President Trump,” McConnell said Tuesday.
Another GOP senator who has often been critical of Trump, Mitt Romney of Utah, also sided with Murkowski and Collins.
“The Clinton impeachment process provided a pathway for there to be witnesses, and presuming we have a process like that again, I would be able to support the Clinton impeachment process,” Romney said in Washington.
It has been almost three weeks since the House returned two articles of impeachment against President Trump, one for abuse of power and another for obstructing Congress. Neither article contains violations of law, say Republicans, as called for by the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” requirement for impeachment.
Republicans have argued that Democrats want to call witnesses in order to string out the impeachment trial well into the 2020 campaign cycle. They also noted that none of the witnesses the House called were directly privy to any of the president’s dealings with Ukraine, which they claim constituted the abuse of power article.
Trump stands accused of using his office for political gain, demanding that the Ukraine government investigate alleged collusion with Democrats during the 2016 election in exchange for military aide.
The president has denied the accusation, and no evidence was presented during the House impeachment inquiry to support it, he claims.