McConnell: The Senate will not do the House's Homework

As House Democrats irresponsibly hurdle toward impeachment tomorrow, the Senate led by Mitch McConnell is going to do it's duty.  In remarks today, Senator McConnell explained what the House has done and why this impeachment is problematic both now and for the future.  

It appears that the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history is about to wind down after just 12 weeks and that its slapdash work product will be dumped on the Senate.

‘I’ll have much more to say to our colleagues and to the American people if and when the House does move ahead. But as we speak today, House Democrats still have the opportunity to do the right thing for the country and avoid setting this toxic new precedent.

‘The House can still turn back from the cliff and not deploy this constitutional remedy of last resort to deliver a pre-determined partisan outcome.


Leader McConnell then responds to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.  McConnell points out that Senator Schumer while saying he supports the 1999 impeachment bipartisan rules, immediately argues against the meat of them, including a part he sponsored!  

‘At first, our colleague’s letter appears to request that a potential impeachment trial adopt similar procedures to the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999. Now, I happen to think that’s a good idea. The basic procedural framework of the Clinton impeachment trial served the Senate and the nation well in my view.

‘But the problem is that while the Democratic Leader notionally says that he wants a potential 2020 trial to look like 1999, he goes on to demand things that would break with the 1999 model.  

The first resolution passed unanimously before the trial. It sketched out basic things like scheduling, opening arguments, and the timing of a motion to dismiss. . . .

‘As a matter of fact, we passed it only after a number of Democrats including Senator Schumer himself voted to dismiss the case. They got a motion to dismiss before the Senate had even decided whether to depose a single witness.

‘Instead of the tried-and-true 1999 model — start the trial and then see how senators wish to proceed — the Democratic Leader wants to write completely new rules for President Trump.

. . .

‘And – very tellingly – our colleague from New York completely omits any motions to dismiss the case, like the one he was happy to vote for himself as a new senator back in 1999.

‘Almost exactly 20 years ago today, prior to the Senate trial, Senator Schumer said this on television – direct quote:

Certainly any senator, according to the rules, could move to dismiss, which is done… Every day, in criminal and civil courts throughout America, motions to dismiss are made. And if a majority vote for that motion to dismiss, the procedure could be truncated.”

‘That was Senator Schumer in January 1999. But now, the same process that Senator Schumer thought was good enough for President Clinton, he doesn’t want to afford President Trump. Go figure.

Senator Schumer also demanded witnesses today.  Schumer is demanding witnesses that the House could have called had they worked through the courts. The House Democrats did let the process run the course required in our Constitutional system of checks and balance.  As McConnell says:

‘Chairman Adam Schiff and House Democrats actively decided not to go to court and pursue potentially useful witnesses because they didn’t want to wait for due process. Indeed, they threatened to impeach the President if they had to go to court at all. That intentional, political decision is the reason why the House is poised to send the Senate the thinnest, least thorough presidential impeachment in our nation’s history.

Of course that is not stopping Schumer: 

Schumer argued for the opposite 20 years ago:

‘He wants one single resolution upfront instead of two, or however many are needed. He wants to guarantee upfront that the Senate hear from very specific witnesses, instead of letting the body evaluate the witness issue after opening arguments and Senators’ questions, like in 1999. . . .

‘Look, most people understand what the Democratic Leader is really after: He is simply trying to lock in live witnesses. That is a strange request at this juncture for a couple of reasons. 

‘For one thing, the 1999 version of Senator Schumer vocally opposed having witnesses — even when the question was raised after hours of opening arguments from the lawyers, hours of questions from Senators, and a failed motion to dismiss.

‘How can he have pre-judged that he favors live witnesses so strongly this time before the Senate even has articles in hand?

‘Moreover, presumably it will be the House prosecutors’ job to ask for the witnesses they feel they need to make their case.

‘Why does the Democratic Leader here in the Senate want to pre-determine the House impeachment managers’ witness request for them before the House has even impeached the president?

‘Might he be coordinating on these questions with people outside the Senate?

As McConnell concludes on the witness issue:

‘He [Schumer] wants to volunteer the Senate’s time and energy on a fishing expedition to see whether his own ideas could make Chairman Schiff’s sloppy work more persuasive than Chairman Schiff himself bothered to make it.

‘This concept is dead wrong. 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. The trajectory that the Democratic Leader apparently wants to take us down — before he’s even heard opening arguments — could set a nightmarish precedent for our institution. 

‘If the Senate volunteers ourselves to do House Democrats’ homework for them, we will only incentivize an endless stream of dubious partisan impeachments in the future.

On behalf of lawyers and those who believe in fair play, thank you Leader McConnell for making the Senate do it's job while the House is a circus.