POLITICS

Chuck Schumer: Witnesses Are 'Essential' To Democratic Agreement On Impeachment Trial

The Democratic Senate leader said he is fully on board with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan to delay sending over articles of impeachment.

WASHINGTON ― Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that being able to subpoena witnesses and press the White House for relevant documents are the top demands from Democrats for the impeachment trial.

“I think witnesses and documents are essential,” Schumer told a small group of reporters Thursday. 

“I think people understand a very simple fact: To have a trial with no witnesses and no documents is a sham trial,” he added. 

On Wednesday, the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on the articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, for his efforts to use the office of the presidency to press a foreign country to investigate his political rival. 

The action now moves to the Senate for a trial ― except that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she’ll delay sending over the articles of impeachment until she sees that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is willing to conduct a “fair” process. She’s also holding off on naming impeachment managers, who are chosen by the House to present the impeachment case to the Senate. 

Without those measures, the chamber cannot begin its trial ― leaving Trump flapping in the wind, without a chance to mount a defense in the Senate. Trump and his team refused to participate in the Democratic-controlled House process, believing he’ll get a better shake in the Senate, which is run by the GOP. 

Pelosi’s move also deprives both the White House and McConnell the chance to quickly move on from the ordeal.

Sitting down with reporters midday Thursday, Schumer had just come from a meeting with Pelosi. He said they speak about five times a day, and they’re in agreement on strategy.

“We’re on the same page. We’re both going to work as hard as we can to get a fair trial. So I’m in accord with what she said in her press conference,” Schumer said. 

Schumer refused to say how far Democrats are willing to take this strategy though. If McConnell never gives in on witnesses and documents, will Pelosi never send over the articles or appoint managers? 

“I think it’s premature to map out what’s going to happen two, three, four weeks from now. We’re going to do everything we can, as best we can, to see that there’s a fair trial,” he said. 

I think people understand a very simple fact: to have a trial with no witnesses and no documents is a sham trial. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

On Sunday, Schumer released a letter to McConnell in which, for the first time, he laid out Democratic expectations and demands for the rules governing the Senate trial. Most notably, Schumer said he wanted to subpoena four witnesses who didn’t testify before the House, and subpoena documents the White House had not yet provided.

The individuals are: Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff; Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff; John Bolton, former national security adviser; and Michael Duffey, associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget.

Schumer said the documents are ones that “will shed additional light on the Administration’s decision-making regarding the delay in security assistance funding to Ukraine and its requests for certain investigations to be announced by the government of Ukraine.”

McConnell has tremendous power in shaping what the impeachment trial will look like ― and he doesn’t actually need Democratic agreement.

If he and Schumer can’t agree on governing rules beforehand, he has indicated that he will go it alone and come up with procedures established by a majority (likely all Republican votes). 

If that fails, McConnell could pursue a scenario in which the Senate would vote on motions as they go.

McConnell and Schumer are set to meet Thursday afternoon. So far, McConnell has said he doesn’t want witnesses. He gave a speech on the Senate floor Thursday morning, saying Pelosi was “too afraid” to send the “shoddy work” done by the House over to his chamber. 

“This is not an indication that the House trial was weak. In fact, the opposite,” Schumer said. “If the House trial was weak, Trump and McConnell wouldn’t mind witnesses. The reason they’re so afraid of additional witnesses is they know it’s a strong case.”

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