McConnell dismisses call for witnesses in Senate impeachment trial
As a U.S. House committee on Tuesday tried to hammer out the rules ahead of a planned vote to impeach President Donald Trump, battle lines were already being drawn up in the Senate for the next phase of the fight: the trial.
Chuck Schumer, who leads the Democratic Senate minority, on Tuesday called for what he referred to as a fair trial to give Senators a chance to hear all the facts.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING: "If such a trial is to happen, Democrats strongly believe it must be fair.
And the American people must regard it as fair." Schumer asked Republicans to call as witnesses current and former White House officials including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-national security adviser John Bolton.
But Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled little interest in letting Democrats call any witnesses in the process, calling such efforts a 'fishing expedition.'
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. REPUBLICAN SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNEL, SAYING: "So now, the Senate Democratic Leader would apparently like our chamber to do House Democrats' homework for them." McConnell seemed to both dismiss the evidence so far against the president, and show no interest in using the trial to gather any new evidence or testimony that might reflect negatively on Donald Trump.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. REPUBLICAN SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNEL, SAYING: "The Senate is meant to act as judge and jury, to hear a trial, not to re-run the entire fact-finding investigation because angry partisans rushed sloppily through it." [FLASH] (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN, SAYING: "We believe this conduct is impeachable, and should never take place again under our constitutional system." Democratic representatives in the House have drawn up two articles of impeachment against Trump, accusing him of abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRATIC RULES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN JAMES McGOVERN, SAYING: "The committees took more than 100 hours of deposition testimony from 17 witnesses, held seven public hearings, which included Republican-requested witnesses." The charges stem from documents and testimony that the president withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations into one of Trump's domestic political rivals.
The Administration disregarded Congressional subpoenas for documents and official testimony throughout this first investigative phase of the process.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRATIC RULES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN JAMES McGOVERN, SAYING: "Requests for documents from the State Department, ignored.
Request for documents from the Department of Defense, ignored.
Request for documents from the vice president, ignored." Despite the pledge not to cooperate, a parade of witnesses – some from the White House - testified about the campaign to press Ukrainian officials into publicly announcing corruption probes into a gas company linked to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE RASKIN, SAYING: "The president of the United States conducted a shake-down of a foreign power." Democrats say the evidence amounts to a president trying to solicit foreign interference in a U.S. election, abusing his office, and blocking Congress from performing oversight.
Trump on Tuesday sent a furious letter to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warning her that if she pursued impeachment, Democrats will be "declaring open war on American democracy," and calling their efforts a "illegal partisan attempted coup." (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN REPORTER AND U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: REPORTER: Mr. President do you take any responsibility for the fact that you're about to be impeached?
I don't take any.
Zero, to put it mildly.
In the Oval Office Tuesday, Trump again denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment proceedings a hoax.