Lindsey Graham wants to "change the rules" to speed up Trump’s trial and undermine Nancy Pelosi

It requires 67 votes to change Senate rules, and there are currently 53 Republicans in the upper chamber

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published January 6, 2020 11:21AM (EST)

US Senator Lindsey Graham (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Lindsey Graham (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would seek to change the Senate rules if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., does not send the articles of impeachment facing President Donald Trump to the upper chamber this week.

Republicans are furious that Pelosi is withholding the articles of impeachment as leverage over negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., last week vowed to introduce a measure to dismiss the case if Pelosi does not turn the articles of impeachment over.

McConnell responded to his Republican colleagues’ complaints on the Senate floor Friday.

“We cannot hold a trial without the articles,” he said. “The Senate’s rules don’t provide for that.”

Graham proposed changing those Senate rules on Sunday in an interview with Fox News.

"What I would do if she continues to refuse to send the articles as required by the Constitution — I would work with Senator McConnell to change the rules of the Senate so we could start the trial without her, if necessary," Graham said, adding that he would wait “days — not weeks” before pursuing the rule changes.

“We’re not going to let Nancy Pelosi use the rules of the Senate to her advantage. This is dangerous to the presidency as an institution," Graham said. "They impeached the president, but the speaker of the House is holding the articles back, trying to extort from the majority leader of the Senate a trial to her liking.”

Schumer has called for the Senate trial to include at least four Trump administration officials as witnesses. McConnell wants to agree on the terms of the trial first before holding a vote on whether to call witnesses.

"If we don’t get the articles this week, then we need to take matters in our own hands and change the rules, deem them to be delivered to the Senate so we can start the trial, invite the House over to participate if they would like," Graham said. "If they don’t come, dismiss the case and get on with governing the country."

It is unclear how Graham plans to accomplish this. Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe pointed out that it requires 67 votes to change Senate rules. Since there are only 53 Republicans in the Senate, Graham would need every party member and 14 Democrats to go along with his scheme to undermine the House.

Democrats praised Pelosi’s strategy, pointing to McConnell’s vow to coordinate Trump’s trial with the White House.

“One success this has already had is flushing out McConnell, showing he is working in cahoots with the president — that he has made himself an active participant in the president’s coverup,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told CNN on Sunday. “So the American people needed to see that, and now they do.”

Schumer told ABC News that if Pelosi had already sent the articles to the Senate, “McConnell could have well just voted for dismissal the day before or after Christmas.”

The minority leader pointed to new administration documents showing that Ukrainian aid was frozen within 90 minutes of Trump’s infamous July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky — and that he personally directed the continuation of the hold even as Pentagon officials worried it violated federal law.

“Now, in the last two weeks, where we haven’t had the articles, lots of new evidence that bolsters our case for witnesses — for witnesses and documents has come out,” Schumer told ABC. “So, the bottom line is very simple: We need the truth, not a coverup, not a sham, not to have some nationally-televised mock trial where there’s no evidence.”

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By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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