Preparations accelerate this week for Senate impeachment trial of Trump
WASHINGTON — In a matter of days, the Senate is expected to launch a historic trial of President Donald Trump, marking just the third time a U.S. president will have faced potential removal from office following impeachment by the House.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said her chamber will vote to appoint House impeachment managers and transmit the two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - by the end of the week despite no upfront agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on whether witnesses will be called.
The crux of the Democrats' case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Senate Minority Leader Churck Schumer, D-N.Y., has repeatedly argued that if Republicans do not support calling witnesses during the Senate trial, they will be participating in a "coverup" of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine.
But Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took to Twitter to push back against Democrats who have accused Republican senators of facilitating a coverup.
"Those claiming Senate GOP going to hold trial without witnesses is lying: We are using same rules used in the [President Bill] Clinton trial," Rubio tweeted.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., pressed the case Monday, Jan. 13, for calling witnesses with direct knowledge of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine.
"It's critically important for the Senate to conduct a fair trial, and a fair trial includes hearing the witnesses who have direct knowledge of the president's participation with the president of Ukraine and the coverup, potential obstruction of justice with Congress, and those witnesses need to testify in the Senate," Cardin said during an appearance on CNN.
During the interview, he also credited Pelosi for announcing she would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, calling it "the right decision."
ATrump returned to Twitter to mock Pelosi's call for a "fair trial" in the Senate, arguing that the proceedings in the House had not been fair to him.
" 'We demand fairness' shouts Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats, yet the Dems in the House wouldn't let us have 1 witness, no lawyers or even ask questions," Trump said in a tweet. "It was the most unfair witch-hunt in the history of Congress!"
Trump declined an offer to participate in the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings, which would have allowed his attorneys to suggest witnesses and ask questions of witnesses called by Democrats.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Monday reiterated Trump's desire to have the impeachment case dismissed, saying "he did nothing wrong."
"The president shouldn't have to go through this," Grisham said during an appearance on Fox News. "He did nothing wrong. He released transcripts willingly because he did nothing wrong."
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who will serve as a juror in Trump's upcoming impeachment trial, said Monday that he is prepared to vote to dismiss the case and to vote for an acquittal if it moves forward.
During an appearance on Hugh Hewitt's syndicated radio show, Scott was asked whether he is prepared to take both of those votes based on what he has seen and read. (Hewitt is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post.)
"Absolutely," he said in response to both of Hewitt's questions.
"It was just a sham in the House, and it's just been a circus by Pelosi," Scott said. "All this was a game by her."
Scott predicted that there would be no witnesses called at the trial and that it would end "within a couple weeks."
This article was written by John Wagner, a reporter for The Washington Post.