WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday made clear he will not change course in the Senate’s impeachment trial as the impasse with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the impeachment articles drags on.
McConnell reiterated on the Senate floor Wednesday that the speaker had no leverage in determining the rules of the Senate trial after President Donald Trump was impeached on two articles in the House last month.
“There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure,” McConnell said. “We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision.”
McConnell said that explanation for withholding the articles was that “Pelosi wanted leverage — leverage to reach into the Senate and dictate our trial proceedings to us.”
“Now I’ve made clear from the beginning that no such leverage exists,” McConnell said. “And yesterday we made it clear it will never exist.”
McConnell’s comments come after Pelosi wrote to House Democrats on Tuesday night that McConnell must release the text of the resolution of the Senate impeachment trial rules before she would send the articles to the Senate.
McConnell didn’t address Pelosi’s letter directly on the House floor, but a McConnell aide confirmed his speech was a rejection of her demand to publish the Senate rules in advance.
In the speech, McConnell said that a majority of the Senate — all Republicans — had decided that the first phase of the impeachment trial “should track closely” with the “unanimous, bipartisan precedent” that 100 senators supported during the 1999 Clinton trial.
McConnell has pushed for an agreement on the rules of the trial and then the question of witnesses should be addressed later. He said that the Clinton precedent “neither guarantees witnesses nor forecloses witnesses.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for the Senate to reach an agreement to hear from witnesses before the Senate trial begins, arguing that Senate Republicans are trying to orchestrate a cover-up for the President rather than conduct a fair trial. They’ve argued that the precedent is different than Clinton because the witnesses being sought — including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton — refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.
“Sadly, Leader McConnell has made clear that his loyalty is to the President and not the Constitution,” Pelosi wrote Tuesday. “Leader McConnell has insisted that the approach under consideration is identical to those of the Clinton trial and that ‘fair is fair.’ This is simply not true.”
Leaving the weekly Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi said that Democrats continue to wait “to see what the terms are” for a Senate impeachment trial before sending over the articles and naming the House’s impeachment managers.
“How we choose our managers depends on what the arena is we are going into,” she said.
But some Senate Democrats are getting restless after Congress returned this week and an end to the stand-off over the impeachment articles did not appear imminent. McConnell ticked off comments from several rank-and-file Senate Democrats on Tuesday advocating for Pelosi to transmit the articles to the Senate, urging Schumer to “listen to his own members” and start the impeachment trial.
Schumer criticized McConnell on Wednesday for saying he had the votes to move forward on the rules of the trial without Democrats, saying the Republican leader is “plotting to run the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.”
“If the Senate rushes through the President’s impeachment, if we actually fail to try the case as the Constitution demands, then the true acquittal the President craves will be unobtainable,” the Senate Democratic leader said.