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Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 19

McConnell: ’We remain at an impasse’ on Senate trial framework

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to not send impeachment articles to the Senate showed Democrats “may be too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate.” (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to not send impeachment articles to the Senate showed Democrats “may be too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate.” (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said no progress has been made in sorting out the framework of an impeachment trial in the Senate. “We remain at an impasse,” he said. McConnell outlined how the proposal from Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer differs from the process approved unanimously for the Clinton impeachment trial in 1998, saying Schumer wants “a new and different set of rules for President Trump.”

 

McConnell said that Pelosi delaying the transmission of the articles of impeachment reflects poorly on the House. “The prosecutors appear to have developed cold feet,” he said. “We’ll see if House Democrats ever work up the courage to actually take their accusations to trial.”

Schumer said a trial without all of the evidence and relevant witnesses providing testimony to the Senate would be tantamount to “a cover-up.”

Senate Democrats are asking for four witnesses in the impeachment trial, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Schumer also wants the Senate to pass one resolution that governs both process and specific witnesses, instead of two separate resolutions, as occurred during the Clinton trial in 1999. House Democrats left for the year until Jan. 7, meaning they will not be able to transmit articles or appoint mangers before then.

 

Here’s the latest on Trump’s impeachment:

Trump makes Van Drew switch official: President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that New Jersey Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew, as expected, is switching teams.

“Very big announcement,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office, flanked by the impeachment-opposing lawmaker. “Jeff will be joining the Republican Party.”

“I believe that this is just a better fit for me,” Van Drew said in the Oval. “This is who I am.”

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Van Drew told the president he will have the new GOP member’s undying support. That promoted the newly impeached Trump to endorse Van Drew in his reelection bid.

‘Playing games’ pt. 2: As he often does, Trump claimed Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding on to the impeachment articles may be illegal without citing any actual legal sources.

“They’re playing games,” he said. “They’re not allowed to do that. … They don’t want to put them in because they’re ashamed of them.”House Democrats on Wednesday night, however, described their own mood as having carried out their constitutional role as a check on the presidency.

Trump also demurred to Senate Republicans on how the coming trial in that chamber should be shaped. “I’m going to let them decide what to do,” he said.

 

What impeachment? Trump claimed he does not feel like part of any club that only includes Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

“I don’t feel like I’m being impeached because it’s a hoax, it’s a setup,” he told reporters. “It’s a horrible thing they did.”

Court Concerns: Sen. Charles E. Grassley said the House will be “embarrassed” if they don’t send the articles of impeachment to the Senate and raised concerns about the delay interfering with the third branch, the court.

“They’ve got to take into consideration the work of the chief justice presiding over the Senate, and he’s got to plan for the work of the Supreme Court,” Grassley said. “And they aren’t taking that into consideration.”

He said the Supreme Court has to do its work and that he’s sure that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had already set aside time in January to preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Asked about the House potentially not sending the articles over to the Senate at all, he said that would be unconstitutional.

Impeachment Games: Sen. John Cornyn said that House Democrats are “playing games” that signal their impeachment effort wasn’t a serious undertaking.

“Either she thinks she has leverage, which he does not have, or she’s undermining her own message about the seriousness of this proceeding,” he said. He called the idea that Pelosi would withhold the articles pending “some kind of accommodation” by the Senate “ridiculous.” 

McConnell says Dems are ‘afraid’: The morning after the House impeached President Donald Trump on charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized House Democrats’ effort as a “toxic new precedent.”

And he suggested that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to wait to see what the impeachment process would look like in the Senate before sending the articles over was asking the Senate to clean up House Democrats’ “shoddy work product.”

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McConnell called the House impeachment process “the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history.”

“Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats may be too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate,” McConnell said.

In her weekly news conference on Thursday, Pelosi said she hopes the Senate can come to a bipartisan agreement on trial procedures for Trump’s impeachment trial like it did 20 years ago in the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton.

“We would hope that they can come to some conclusion like that, but in any event, we’re ready when we see what they have,” she said, noting that she’ll name impeachment managers and transmit the articles to the Senate at that time.

Asked about Republican allegations that she’s playing games with the process, Pelosi responded, “Frankly, I don’t care what they have to say.”

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 19: Capitol Police arrest several protesters wearing Remove Trump shirts after they blocked the entrance to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Russell Senate Office Building on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives the night before. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Capitol Police arrested several protesters wearing “Remove Trump” shirts Thursday morning after they blocked the entrance to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Russell Senate Office Building. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Trump used words similar to McConnell’s to condemn House Democrats on Thursday morning.

“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate,” the president tweeted.

McCarthy concurs: By not yet advancing the articles of impeachment to the Senate, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Pelosi is “admitting defeat.”

“She’s embarrassed of it,” McCarthy said of impeachment, noting that Pelosi at a news conference after the vote Wednesday batted away questions on next steps for advancing the articles to the Senate.

“She understands how weak it is,” McCarthy said.

Looking toward Senate action on impeachment McConnell said that Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has “began searching for ways the Senate could step out of our proper role and try to fix House Democrats’ failures for them.”

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Schumer responds: Speaking on the Senate floor after McConnell, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said McConnell “is plotting the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.”

“The nation just witnessed how the Republican leader sees his role in this chapter of his history, demonstrating both an unfortunate descent into partisanship and demonstrating the fundamental weakness of the president’s defense,” he said.

In a reference to President Richard Nixon who resigned before he was impeached, Schumer asked “Is the president’s case so weak that none of the president’s men can defend him under oath?”

Schumer was to meet with McConnell Thursday afternoon. Leaving a meeting with Pelosi early Thursday afternoon, the minority leader said he and the Speaker are “on the same page.”

“We want a fair trial,” he said.

Warning: McConnell warned that the impeachment of Trump could lead to a future in which the Senate is “swamped” with impeachment after impeachment.

Republican Rep. Rodney Davis after the vote on Wednesday guaranteed that his party would use the tactic.

Asked if the gravity of the House’s vote to impeach Trump had set in, Davis said it hadn’t, but will eventually.

“It will set in at a later date when we have the next partisan impeachment,” Davis said. “When a Democrat is in the White House and the Republicans control the House because of the precedent that’s been set here. I guarantee it’s going to happen.”

“Senate’s call!”: President Donald Trump on Thursday touted all House Republicans voting against the two articles of impeachment, but he appears to be undervaluing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leverage over the shape of a Senate trial.

“I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history,” he tweeted. “Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!”

But it’s not. The House must select its trial managers, the Democratic members who will make their case on the Senate floor as senators act as jurors. Pelosi said late Wednesday night she will not deliver the articles until House Democratic leaders hear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come up with a “fair” trial framework.