Updated Jan 7, 2020

McConnell to move ahead on Senate trial rules without Democrats

McConnell talks with reporters on Monday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he'll move ahead on approving rules for President Trump's Senate trial without negotiating them with Democrats.

Between the lines: Senate Republicans' comments on Tuesday suggested that they've fallen in line with McConnell's position that the rules should be based on Bill Clinton's 1999 Senate trial, where the question of whether to call witnesses was postponed until after the start of the trial.

  • Many of these senators have said they're comfortable following the precedent of the Clinton trial, in which senators first gave their opening statements and submitted their questions to the chief justice of the Supreme Court before formally calling witnesses. 

McConnell's move, first reported by Politico, suggests that key GOP senators are not eager to join Democrats' demands to immediately call witnesses — including subpoenaing former national security adviser John Bolton — and request new documents at the onset of a Senate trial. 

What they're saying: Even Sen. Mitt Romney, who has been the most forthright in stating he wants to hear from Bolton, said he is “comfortable” with following the Clinton precedent. However, he distinguished that he is only comfortable with it because it still provides a pathway to hear from witnesses.

  • “I think the Clinton impeachment process provides a pathway for witnesses to be heard, so I’m comfortable with that process,” Romney told reporters Tuesday.
  • Other Republicans agreed. "What I want to do is what we did in the Clinton [trial]. I want to hear from the prosecution, I want to hear from the defense, and then make up our mind on that," said Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Yes, but: Some Democrats rightly point out that it’s not fair to compare the current impeachment battle to Clinton’s, as the universe of witnesses in the 1999 trial was much more defined. 

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must also transmit the articles of impeachment — which she has thus far withheld — in order for the Senate trial to begin.

What to watch: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Pelosi had been waiting to send the articles until she knew what the Senate trial would look like, and that it's now beginning to take shape.

Go deeper: Key GOP senators don't want to subpoena Bolton

Go deeper

Key GOP senators don't want to subpoena Bolton

John Bolton during a meeting with Belarus' president Alexander in September. Photo: Yuri Oreshkin\TASS via Getty Images

Key Senate Republicans are refusing to give a clear answer on whether President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton should be subpoenaed to testify in an eventual impeachment trial, after he stated Monday that he would comply with a Senate subpoena.

Why it matters: Bolton has firsthand knowledge of Trump's direct conversations about Ukraine aid. The big question heading into this week is whether rebel Republican Senators are even remotely thinking about joining Democrats’ demands for the Senate to call witnesses and request documents from key figures being blocked by the White House.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

What to expect this week as Pelosi prepares to send articles of impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

As she prepares to finally send over the articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning there could be a "cover-up" to protect President Trump in the Republican-led Senate. Republicans, meanwhile, are testing ways to use the trial as a wedge issue on Democrats.

Driving the news: Pelosi is expected to name House managers this week after consulting with her caucus at a meeting on Tuesday morning. She'll deliver the articles shortly after, though the precise timing is still unclear.

Go deeperArrowJan 12, 2020

Pelosi confirms House will vote to send impeachment articles on Wednesday

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed in a statement Tuesday that the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution that would name impeachment managers and transmit the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate.

Why it matters: The vote would end Pelosi's pressure campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow additional documents and witnesses in the Senate's impeachment trial. McConnell said at a press conference that the trial will likely begin next Tuesday, with "housekeeping" measures like the swearing-in of senators taking place this week.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 14, 2020