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McConnell Claims He Has the Votes to Set Senate Trial Rules Without Dem Cooperation

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. December 16, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has whipped the 51 votes required to establish the rules for President Trump’s impending impeachment trial without a concrete agreement on witnesses, according to multiple reports.

McConnell told colleagues during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday that he had secured the necessary backing to begin President Trump’s impeachment trial, according to the Washington Post. Politico first reported that Republicans were growing increasingly confident in their ability to set the trial parameters without input from Democrats.

The decision comes despite protests from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who said that “Republicans may run but they can’t hide” from the question of whether witnesses and documents will be called in the trial.

“There will be votes at the beginning on whether to call the four witnesses we’ve proposed and subpoena the documents we’ve identified,” Schumer declared. Democrats have argued continuously that White House officials who have first-hand knowledge of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, such as former adviser John Bolton, should be required to testify during the trial. Bolton said Monday that he would testify if subpoenaed.

McConnell has been planning the trial in the same format as that of former President Bill Clinton, with opening arguments being held before a vote to determine which witnesses, if any, would be called to testify.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R., S.D.) said before the lunch that Republican leadership was ““trying to get consensus among Republicans about how to go forward.”

“We are taking the temperature of our members to see where they are but I’m hoping our members will be prepared to move forward along the lines of the Clinton rules which is what we think makes sense,” Thune said. “What we’re aspiring to do is to get this process moving forward and indicate to the Democrats that as soon as they send those articles over here, we’re ready to go.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has delayed sending the articles over to the Senate, but Republicans have been ramping up pressure on her to deliver them, with Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) introducing a resolution on Monday that would preemptively dismiss the articles if they’re not sent over in a timely manner.

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