Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has presented Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with a proposal for how to conduct the impending Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
In a letter sent Sunday evening to McConnell, R-Ky., Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed that the trial process begin Jan. 6, with the trial itself starting Jan. 9. He said Senate Democrats want to hear testimony from four administration witnesses who have not previously testified:former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey. Schumer proposed that each side question witnesses for four hours each.
The New York Democrat also called for the Senate to subpoena documents which could shed light on the events at the heart of the charges against Trump: his effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals and his decision to temporarily withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. The minority leader detailed a timetable for each side to present its case, modeled on the five-week trial of former President Bill Clinton in 1999. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has emerged as a swing vote among his four liberal and four conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court, will preside over the trial.
"Senate Democrats believe strongly — and I trust Senate Republicans agree — that this trial must be one that is fair, that considers all of the relevant facts and that exercises the Senate's 'sole power of impeachment' under the Constitution with integrity and dignity," Schumer wrote in the letter to McConnell. "The trial must be one that not only hears all of the evidence and adjudicates the case fairly; it must also pass the fairness test with the American people. That is the great challenge for the Senate in the coming weeks."
The letter comes just days before the House of Representatives is expected to vote to impeach the president, triggering a trial in the upper chamber. It is also the first public outreach between the leaders, who lawmakers across the aisle hope can negotiate a resolution which establishes rules for a trial.
McConnell and Schumer have yet to meet to discuss the rules for the trial, and it is unclear whether they will even be able to strike a deal. McConnell has indicated his preference for a short Senate trial, which would quickly acquit Trump.
Ultimately, the Republican majority has the power to set the trial rules without Democratic votes, but it will require unity from 51 members of the 53-member majority. In 1999, the Senate approved a resolution establishing the rules of floor proceedings 100-0.
The Senate requires a two-third majority, or 67 votes, to remove a president from office. The GOP holds a 53-47 advantage, which means 20 Senate Republicans would need to break from Trump in order to convict him in a Senate trial, assuming every Democrat votes to remove him from office.
"We'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time in total coordination with the White House counsel's office," McConnell told Fox News host Sean Hannity last week. He added, "I'm taking my cues from the president's lawyers. There's no chance the president will be removed from office."
McConnell spokesman David Andres said Sunday evening that the majority leader "has made it clear he plans to meet with Leader Schumer to discuss the contours of a trial soon. That timeline has not changed."
In an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday morning, Schumer said, "There's not a single reason that has been given why the four witnesses we've asked for, why the documents we've asked for should not be presented."
"I don't know what they'll say. Maybe they'll be exculpatory to President Trump. But to not have them is to engage in a cover up is to say, 'We're afraid.' And the American people will ask of President Trump and people like Mitch McConnell — if he doesn’t have a full and fair trial — 'What are you hiding? What are you hiding?'" he continued.
Schumer also threw cold water on the idea of hearing testimony from "extraneous" witnesses, like former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president. Senate Republicans have said the younger Biden should testify, while Democrats, including Schumer, have argued that Hunter Biden has no direct knowledge of the allegations which Trump faces.
"I don't know a single person who said, 'Does Hunter Biden know anything about the specific facts that were presented here?'" Schumer said.
Of the witnesses whose testimony he seeks, Schumer said, "These facts are yearning to come out." He added that both the witnesses and his requests for documents are crucial for ensuring "fair trial."
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded to Schumer's Monday morning remarks, taking a jab at him over calling for a fair trial.
"'Let us hope that fairness will prevail' a laughable quote from @SenSchumer this AM. . . . after the dems release an 'impeachment report' in the middle of the night," Grisham tweeted. "Thankfully the people of this country continue to see the partisan sham that this is."