Mitch McConnell says he'd "have no choice" but to take up impeachment if it advances to the Senate

Almost the entire Democratic caucus has come out publicly in support of an impeachment inquiry against Trump

By Matthew Rozsa

Published October 1, 2019 10:56AM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell  (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, D-Ky., says Senate rules would leave him with “no choice” other than to take up impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump if the House of Representatives votes to charge the president with violating the Constitution.

“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell told CNBC on Monday. “How long you are on it is a different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”

According to a tally taken last week by NBC News, 225 Democrats of the 235 member House caucus support an impeachment inquiry against the president, along with one independent, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan. If all of those legislators ultimately voted to impeach the president, it would be more than enough to send the matter over to the Senate for trial, since only 216 votes are needed. At that point, two-thirds of the lawmakers in the upper chamber would have to vote to convict the president in order to forcibly remove him from office. This would be an uphill climb, since all 45 Democrats and both independents would have to vote to convict, along with 20 of the 53 Senate Republicans.

At the center of impeachment hearings is a phone call held between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky from July 25. A whistleblower complaint filed last week accused Trump of soliciting Zelensky to pursue a corruption investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the president’s chief potential rivals in the upcoming 2020 election. Right-wing operatives associated with Trump, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have fabricated a conspiracy theory asserting that Biden had a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to protect his son, Hunter Biden, who was working for a Ukrainian gas company at the time. However, there is no evidence to support that theory. At the time of the call, the Trump administration was also withholding $391 million in military aid that had been earmarked for the country by Congress.

In August, an intelligence official who learned of the call blew the whistle on it. Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, did not comply with a law stating that  the whistleblower's letter shall be shared with Congress within seven days, although Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, had deemed it an “urgent concern.” Last week, notes on the Trump-Zelensky call were released by the White House, and Maguire appeared before Congress to testify as to why he had initially refused to disclose the whistleblower’s complaint to the House Intelligence Committee.

On Monday, three separate House committees announced that they had subpoenaed Giuliani for documents related to Ukraine. Shortly after that, the Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had participated in the call between Trump and Zelensky.

Trump continues to deny wrongdoing, tweeting on Tuesday morning that “the congratulatory phone call with the Ukrainian President was PERFECT, unless you heard Liddle’ Adam Schiff’s fraudulently made up version of the call. This is just another Fake News Media, together with their partner, the Democrat Party, HOAX!”

The president also tweeted a map of the county-by-county results from the 2016 presidential election with the caption: “Try to impeach this.”

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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