Analysis: McConnell’s Impeachment Rules Rig Senate Trial In Trump’s Favor

Darren.Woon

Sen. Mitch McConnell announced ground rules for the impeachment trial that could tilt in favor of President Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seeks to speed through President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and will refuse to admit the House’s evidence against the president without a separate vote, according to The New York Times

Sen. McConnell unveiled the ground rules on Monday after Trump’s legal team submitted a 110-page brief to the Senate, which called for them to “swiftly reject” the impeachment charges and acquit him, arguing that Democrats would “permanently weaken the presidency” if they succeeded in removing him from office. 

The trial rules will limit each side’s arguments to 24 hours over two days, which is viewed as in favor of the White House, drawing anger from Democrats. The Senate could also decline to hear new evidence not uncovered in the House impeachment inquiry as well as sidestep considering the House case against Trump altogether -- although such a vote is considered unlikely. 

“Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It’s a cover-up, and the American people will see it for exactly what it is.”

The impeachment court will open on Tuesday with the debate on the rules for the trial, while oral arguments by the House managers would follow on Wednesday. A presentation by Mr. Trump’s legal team would then occur. 

McConnell had frequently stated that he would model his rules on the procedures for Mr. Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, but has made changes that could favor Trump. 

The rules in the Clinton trial imposed no limits on the 24 hours of oral arguments allowed on both sides, but McConnell condensed them into two marathon-session days, which would allow the Senate to speed through them by Saturday. 

A senior Republican leadership aide conceded that McConnell deviated from the 1999 rules, which admitted the House impeachment record into evidence at the start of the trial, in requiring a separate Senate vote to do so. 

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