Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking from the chamber’s floor Friday, rejected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to shape a pending impeachment trial as “fantasy”—leaving the process at a standstill as lawmakers return from the holiday recess.
“Their turn is over. They’ve done enough damage. It’s the Senate’s turn now to render sober judgment,” McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor.
But he stressed that the chamber cannot hold a trial unless and until the House of Representatives transmits the two articles of impeachment adopted last month, accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress pertaining to his dealings with Ukraine. Pelosi, D-Calif., has held onto them in a bid to seek favorable terms for a trial, including the involvement of certain Democrat-sought witnesses.
McConnell called Pelosi’s effort to “hand-design” the proceedings in the Senate a “non-starter” and a “fantasy.”
Moments later, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., defended his party's efforts to seek certain high-level witnesses and documents, noting how recently published emails have started to fill out the details of the administration's decision to freeze aid to Ukraine while the president sought politically advantageous investigations from Kiev. Schumer said it is imperative to learn the "whole truth," while voicing concern McConnell could end up holding a "mock trial."
“Will we fulfill our duty to conduct a fair impeachment trial of the president of the United States or will we not? That is most pressing question facing this Senate,” Schumer said. “The country just saw McConnell’s answer to that question. The answer is no.”
Schumer argued that McConnell is ignoring “the only one precedent that matters here.”
“Never, never in the history of our country has there been an impeachment trial in which the Senate was denied the ability to hear from witnesses, yet the Republican leader seems intent on violating that precedent and denying critical evidence to this body and to the American people,” Schumer said, adding that McConnell has “no intention to be impartial.”
The remarks leave the proceedings as they were before the recess—stalled, with lawmakers at an impasse and unsure when and if a trial might start. Even Schumer acknowledged they appear "no closer" to setting the rules for a trial than before the recess.
Schumer has demanded testimony from top Trump administration officials amid new reports of what occurred inside the administration at the time of the decision to freeze millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine.
The New York Democrat recently sent a letter to fellow senators that cited records including an email sent by the Office of Management and Budget Associate Director Michael Duffey to Defense Department officials roughly an hour-and-a-half after Trump's controversial July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"This shows all four witnesses we requested – [acting White House chief of staff] Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffey, [White House aide Robert] Blair – were intimately involved & had direct knowledge of Pres. Trump’s decision to cut off aid to benefit himself," Schumer tweeted.
Meanwhile, McConnell has argued that the eventual Trump impeachment trial should mirror that of former President Bill Clinton's in 1999.
At the center of the inquiry is Trump’s efforts to press Zelensky to launch politically related investigations — regarding former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in Ukraine, as well as issues related to the 2016 presidential election.
The president’s request came after millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats argue shows a “quid pro quo” arrangement. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
But McConnell charged that Democrats' "Trump derangement syndrome" has escalated into a partisan "fever," while accusing his counterparts of taking positions that contradict their actions during the Clinton impeachment.
"It appears that one symptom of Trump derangement syndrome is also a bad case of amnesia," he quipped.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said overnight that he plans to introduce a measure Monday to dismiss the "bogus impeachment" entirely.
"If Dems won’t proceed with trial, bogus articles should be dismissed and @realDonaldTrump fully cleared," he tweeted.
McConnell, though, indicated the Senate process is at a standstill for now, as he accused the House of getting "cold feet."
"The same people who spent weeks screaming that impeachment was so urgent … now decided it could wait indefinitely while they check the political winds and look for some new talking points," he said.