Mitch McConnell says he HASN’T ruled out calling witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial

Senate Majorty Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that despite a thorny impasse over the format of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, no one has ruled out calling witnesses.

Leading congressional Democrats had suggested last week that the GOP was planning a quick trial with little or no new evidence.

House Speaker Nany Pelosi took the unprecedented step of holding on to the final articles of impeachment after her side of the aisle passed them, suggesting that immediately sending them to the Senate would cost her leverage over McConnell as he drew up plans for the next chapter.

But McConnell reiterated on ‘Fox & Friends’ what he said Thursday on the Senate floor: that he wants to apply the rules senators adopted during the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Sen. Chuck Schumer, now the Democrats’ leader, joined the rest of the Senate in green-lighting them.

‘We had a procedure that was approved 100 to nothing—Schumer voted for it—to go through the opening arguments, to have a written question period, and then, based upon that, deciding what witnesses to call,’ he said. ‘We haven’t ruled out witnesses. We’ve said, “Let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton.” Fair is fair.’

McConnell said wrangling over which witnesses to call 20 years ago ‘was a pretty partisan exercise, but we didn’t let the partisan part of it keep us from getting started.’

An aide to a senior Republican senator said Monday after McConnell’s television appearance that ‘Democrats on TV have been the only people saying there could be a trial without witnesses.’

‘The only question is who those witnesses will be,’ the aide told, ‘and that’s not something anyone is going to decide beforehand. So it’s certainly not something Nancy Pelosi is going to control.’

Pelosi’s gambit ‘has it bass-ackward,’ added the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to talk to the media. ‘If you want a trial with a witness list Democrats have a hand in writing, you’d better send the articles. Without that paperwork, there won’t be a trial of any kind. Period.’

McConnell chuckled along the same lines Monday morning.

‘Believe it or not, the papers have to be physically brought over to the Senate, and we can’t go forward until the speaker does that. She’s apparently trying to tell us how to run the trial,’ he said.

‘You know, I’m not anxious to have this trial, so if she wants to hold all the papers, go right ahead.’

The president was more combative on Monday.

‘Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so,’ he tweeted. 

‘She lost Congress once, she will do it again!’    

McConnell also blasted House Democrats for failing to go to court to force witnesses to testify in their impeachment hearings after the White House ordered them not to.

‘The House could have done is to go to court and try to compel the attendance. They didn’t do that,’ he said.

Schumer suggested Sunday on CNN that Republicans wanted to hold a quick trial without new evidence, but ‘have come up with no good reason why there shouldn’t be witnesses, why there shouldn’t be documents.’

The New York Democrat also blasted McConnell for acknowledging his partisan leanings. The U.S. Constitution turns senators into jurors during impeachment trials.

‘Mitch McConnell has said he’s proud to be a partial juror. … Every senator has to uphold an oath to render impartial justice. And he said he’s proud to be partial. That says it all,’ Schumer said.

McConnell shot back Monday morning: ‘Do you think Chuck Schumer’s impartial? Do you think Elizabeth Warren is impartial? Bernie Sanders is impartial? So let’s quit the charade. This is a political exercise.’

Warren and Sanders, along with Amy Klobuchar, are Democratic U.S. senators who publicly favored impeaching the president and are now running against him.

Trump has demanded an ‘immediate trial,’ claiming Pelosi is delaying because she fears Republicans will call witnesses who will damage the Democratic case.

‘The reason the Democrats don’t want to submit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate is that they don’t want corrupt politician Adam Shifty Schiff to testify under oath, nor do they want the Whistleblower, the missing second Whistleblower, the informer, the Bidens, to testify!’ the president tweeted during Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate.  

Trump is the third president after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton to face an impeachment trial. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be removed in 1974. 

Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, whom Democrats called as a witness in one impeachment inquiry hearing, claimed last week that Trump won’t bue formally impeached until Pelosi sends the articles to the Senate. 

An indefinite delay ‘would pose a serious problem’, Feldman wrote. 

‘Impeachment as contemplated by the Constitution does not consist merely of the vote by the House, but of the process of sending the articles to the Senate for trial. Both parts are necessary to make an impeachment under the Constitution: The House must actually send the articles and send managers to the Senate to prosecute the impeachment. And the Senate must actually hold a trial.’

He added: ‘If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all.’