Capitol Report: McConnell, Schumer signal they’re still at impasse on Trump’s impeachment trial in Senate

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated Friday that Republicans and Democratic lawmakers remain at an impasse over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

The Democratic-led House voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18, but the exact timing for a Senate trial on the charges against him isn’t clear because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Republican-controlled Senate, signaling that Democratic lawmakers want to see that the Senate’s process looks fair.

McConnell, for his part, has repeatedly rejected Democrats’ requests that he commit to having new witnesses and documents in the trial. He didn’t budge on that point Friday.

“About this fantasy that the speaker of the House will get to hand design the trial proceedings in the Senate — that’s a obviously a nonstarter,” McConnell said Friday on the Senate floor. “So, for now, we’re content to continue the ordinary business of the Senate while House Democrats continue to flounder.”

The Kentucky Republican added that if House Democrats “ever muster the courage to stand behind their slapdash work product and transmit their articles to the Senate, it will then be time for the United States Senate to fulfill our founding purpose.”

Schumer also didn’t change his stance when he spoke Friday on the Senate floor after McConnell’s remarks.

“Will we conduct a fair trial that examines all the facts or not? The country just saw Sen. McConnell’s answer to that question. His answer is no,” Schumer said.

“If we don’t get a commitment up front that the House managers will be able to call witnesses as part of their case, the Senate will act as little more than a nationally televised meeting of the mock-trial club,” the New York Democrat added. Schumer argued that the case for calling witnesses has only gotten stronger since last month, pointing to developments such as a report that a Trump official wrote in an email that the president was giving “clear direction” to hold up aid to Ukraine.

The Democrats’ impeachment push centers on Trump’s pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, as well as into a theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has repeatedly blasted Democratic lawmakers for their efforts to remove him from office, saying in a letter to Pelosi last month that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”

Trump, charged with abuse of power and obstructing Congress, is only the third American president to have been impeached, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned before an impeachment vote could take place.

Don’t miss: Complete MarketWatch coverage of the Trump impeachment inquiry

And see: Trump hasn’t been impeached yet, one scholar argues — others say he’s wrong

But impeachment by the House doesn’t mean removal from office. Neither Johnson nor Clinton was found guilty in impeachment trials in the Senate, and the same outcome is widely expected in the impeachment of Trump, whose Republican Party occupies 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats. That helps explain why the stock market DJIA, -0.77% SPX, -0.60% hasn’t reacted much to impeachment-related developments.

Opinion: For the stock market, impeachment is just a sideshow

And read: Why investors are so calm about impeachment — and what it would take for that to change

The Senate had been getting ready to try the president in January, with its legislative calendar for this month cleared to make way for the proceedings. Chief Justice John Roberts has been expected to preside over the Senate trial, and Trump has been expected to be asked to address the charges.

House Democrats are set to serve as the prosecutors in the trial, and in this role are called impeachment managers, while the president’s lawyers defend him.

A two-thirds majority of senators would be required to vote to convict Trump in order to remove him from office.

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