Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday hit back at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s (R-Ky.) upbraiding of the House impeachment votes and questioned why the GOP leader wouldn’t support trial witnesses.
“Is the president’s case so weak that none of the president’s men can defend him under oath? If the House’s case is so weak, why is Leader McConnell so afraid of witnesses and documents?” Schumer asked from the Senate floor.
He added that McConnell’s lengthy floor speech earlier Thursday morning — which Schumer described as a “thirty-minute partisan stem-winder” — did not push back against the accusations leveled against President Trump with facts.
“He did not advance an argument in defense of the president’s conduct on the merits. That, in and of itself, is a damning reflection on the state of the president’s defense,” Schumer said.
Schumer’s speech came after McConnell lashed out at the House impeachment votes as “slapdash,” “rushed and rigged.”
McConnell repeatedly called the House impeachment inquiry the “most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history.”
Schumer, during his rebuttal, tried to turn McConnell’s words back at him, saying the GOP leader “is plotting the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.”
McConnell and Schumer are expected to sit down later Thursday to have their first discussion on what the rules around the impeachment trial will look like. McConnell has told his members to expect the announcement of a trial start date by Friday.
Schumer and his caucus are asking for four witnesses as part of the impeachment trial, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. He also wants the Senate to pass one resolution that governs both process and specific witnesses, instead of two separate resolutions as occurred during the Clinton trial.
McConnell has said he does not want any witnesses as part of the trial. Calling a witness would require the support of 51 senators, with Schumer trying to build pressure on four Republicans to break rank.
The House late Wednesday passed two articles of impeachment against Trump, making him the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. One charged Trump with abusing power in his dealings with Ukraine and the second with obstructing Congress during its investigation of those actions.
Schumer added on Thursday that the articles suggest the president committed a “grave injury to our democracy.”
“If the Republicans proceed with the Majority Leader’s scheme to sweep these charges under the rug and permit the President to ignore Congress, they will be creating a new precedent that will be long remembered as one of the Senate’s darkest chapters,” he added.