Democrats rebuke Mitch McConnell’s impeachment trial rules as cover-up attempt: “National disgrace"

"A trial where no evidence — no existing record, no witnesses, no documents — isn't a trial at all"

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published January 21, 2020 9:53AM (EST)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Tom Brenner)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Tom Brenner)

Democrats accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of a "cover-up" after his plan to speed up President Donald Trump's impeachment trial was unveiled. 

McConnell submitted a resolution Monday that would limit opening arguments to 24 hours over just two days, meaning the trial could stretch past midnight. The plan also gives senators up to 16 hours for questions and four hours of debate. After that, senators would vote whether to allow witnesses and new evidence. Witnesses would be deposed privately and the Senate would then vote whether to allow them to testify publicly.

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on the resolution. Republicans are expected to approve the rules down party lines, according to Politico.

Democrats slammed the proposal, warning that the rules are likely to result in key evidence being presented at 2 to 3 am.

"It's clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said. "On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell's resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace."

Schumer also slammed the proposal for not automatically allowing the House Democrats' evidence into the trial.

"Senator McConnell is saying he doesn't want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn't want to hear any new evidence," Schumer added. "A trial where no evidence — no existing record, no witnesses, no documents — isn't a trial at all. It's a cover-up."

Schumer will offer a motion to allow administration witnesses and evidence into the trial on day one, but that vote is expected to fail. Several Republicans, including Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have said they would be open to allowing witnesses after the trial begins.

The House impeachment managers selected by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to present the evidence similarly criticized McConnell for disregarding his vow to follow the "Clinton precedent" on the structure of Trump's trial.

"It is now clear why he hid his proposed resolution all this time and released it the night before the trial is set to begin," the House managers said in a statement. "His resolution deviates sharply from the Clinton precedent  and common sense  in an effort to prevent the full truth of the president's misconduct from coming to light."

"In the Clinton case, the president provided all of the documents  more than 90,000 pages of them  before the trial took place. McConnell's resolution rejects that basic necessity," they continued. "And in the Clinton case, all of the witnesses had testified before the Senate trial began, and the only issue was whether they would be re-called to testify once more. The substance of what they would say was already known"McConnell is trying to prevent the witnesses from ever testifying, and the public from ever finding out what they have to say."

The proposal comes after McConnell vowed to coordinate Trump's trial with the administration. The White House praised his rules proposal Monday.

"We are gratified that the draft resolution protects the [president's] rights to a fair trial, and look forward to presenting a vigorous defense on the facts and the process as quickly as possible and seeking an acquittal as swiftly as possible," White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland told Politico.

But even Fox News congressional reporter Chad Pergram said the trial was hardly fair at all.

"McConnell's resolution stipulates that key facts be delivered in the wee hours of the night simply because he doesn't want the American people to hear them," he wrote on Twitter. "Any senator that votes for the McConnell resolution will be voting to hide information & evidence from the American people."

The proposal prompted the hashtag #MidnightMitch to trend on Twitter.

"#MidnightMitch has already admitted he's working hand-in-hand with Trump on the impeachment trial & violating his oath to be impartial -- but his proposed rules for the trial (holding the trial at 1 am??) are yet more evidence that he's helping the White House perpetrate a cover-up,"Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., tweeted.

"These aren't rules for a real trial at all, much less a fair one," Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe added. "They're rules for a rigged outcome, with #MidnightMitch making sure that as much of the so-called trial as possible takes place in the dark of night."

By Igor Derysh

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

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