Republicans and Democrats are at an “impasse” over the next steps in the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at a Senate session on Thursday afternoon.
McConnell said that he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “had a cordial conversation” earlier in the day, discussing potential paths forward after House Democrats’ “precedent-breaking impeachment of President Trump.”
Schumer is insisting that the Senate approve witnesses in the initial vote on guidelines for a Senate trial, something McConnell noted would depart from bipartisan precedent established during President Bill Clinton’s trial. In that trial, Senators voted for initial guidelines 100-0 before voting on the question of witnesses after both sides made their cases to the Senators, who act as a jury when presented with articles of impeachment.
“As of today, however, we remain at an impasse. Because my friend, the Democratic leader, continues to demand a new and different set of rules for President Trump. He wants to break from that unanimous bipartisan precedent and force an all-or-nothing approach,” McConnell said.
“My colleague wants a special pretrial guarantee of certain witnesses whom the House Democrats themselves did not bother to pursue as they assembled their case. Or he wants to proceed without giving any organizational resolution whatsoever. So, as I said, we remain at an impasse on these logistics.”
House Democrats have refused to send over the articles of impeachment they approved against Trump, which McConnell described as “highly unusual.”
“Some House Democrats imply they are withholding the articles for some kind of leverage, so they can dictate the Senate process to senators. I admit, I’m not sure what leverage there is in refraining from sending us something we do not want. But, alas, if they can figure that out, they can explain it,” McConnell said.
“Meanwhile, other House Democrats seem to be suggesting they’d prefer never to transmit the articles. Fine with me. And the speaker of the House herself has been unclear on this. Her message has been somewhat muddled.”
House Democrats pushed forward impeachment because they said Trump shouldn’t be allowed to stay in office but, McConnell said, they now “appear to have developed cold feet.”
“We’ll see whether House Democrats ever want to work up the courage to actually take their accusations to trial,” he added.
Both the Senate and the House broke for Christmas on Thursday. The House did not send a vote on a bill naming House managers, or people who will make the case against Trump during a Senate trial.
Pelosi said at a press conference after the House voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18 that Democrats want a “fair trial in the Senate” and questioned whether McConnell will “allow” that.
She said the articles would not be sent to the Senate “until we see what the process is on the Senate side.”
The next day, she said a bill was created in the House Rules Committee that Democrats “can call up at any time in order to send it over to the Senate” that includes naming House managers.
“I’ve not prepared to put the managers on that bill yet because we don’t know the arena that we are in,” Pelosi said, before lashing out at reporters, telling them to stop asking her about issue.
Trump on Thursday said he’d prefer an “immediate trial” on the articles approved by the House.
“So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial,” Trump said on Twitter. “Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!”
“They don’t want to put in their articles—their ridiculous, phony, fraudulent articles,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “And I think they’re not allowed to do that. I hear it’s unconstitutional and a lot of other things. But they don’t want to put them in because they’re ashamed of them, because it’s a—what they’ve done is wrong and it’s bad for the country. Very, very bad for the country.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said at a press conference that Pelosi “is so embarrassed, she admits the failure of this impeachment that she will not even send it to the Senate.”
“She’s admitting defeat by not sending it,” he added. “She knows this outcome is not good. She knows the facts are not there; there’s no basis for it.”
Noah Feldman, a constitutional scholar at Harvard University who was called by House Democrats as an impeachment inquiry witness, argued in an op-ed that Trump is not impeached until the House submits the articles to the Senate.
“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,” he alleged.
“So far, the House has voted to impeach (future tense) Trump. He isn’t impeached (past tense) until the articles go to the Senate and the House members deliver the message. Once the articles are sent, the Senate has a constitutional duty to hold a trial on the impeachment charges presented.”
Feldman said a short delay wouldn’t be a problem but called an indefinite delay “a serious problem.”
But Laurence Tribe, a Harvard University constitutional law professor, said that Pelosi was handling the situation “just brilliantly.”
Tribe, who is credited by some for first putting forth the idea of withholding the articles from the Senate, claimed on MSNBC that the articles should be held by Pelosi because “for the first time we have a majority leader who is going to be essentially the foreman of the jury and who promises to have his fingers crossed when he takes the oath.”