Over three weeks after they were passed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has finally agreed to send both impeachment articles to the Senate for a trial, but in a new wrinkle, it has now been reported that a moderate Republican is working “with a fairly small group” of GOP colleagues to secure an agreement on witnesses, something Pelosi’s delay was designed to achieve all along.
According to the Washington Examiner, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that she is cooperating with “some of [her] Republican colleagues” along with the GOP’s leadership, “to reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for witnesses for both the House managers and the president’s counsel if they choose to do so.”
Collins is apparently not the only senator on her side of the aisle who is eager to hear from witnesses. Last week, The Hill quoted Utah Republican and failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney as saying he wanted to hear from them too.
“I think the Clinton impeachment process provides a pathway for witnesses to be heard so I’m comfortable with that process,” Romney explained.
The so-called “Clinton model” allows witnesses to be called during the trial, but not until after the president has made his case, an example that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) doesn’t want to follow.
“More important than precedent is the fact that it plainly doesn’t make sense to have both sides present their arguments first and then — afterward — ask for the evidence we know is out there,” Schumer said, according to The Hill.
“The evidence should inform the trial,” he continued, “not the other way around.”
Schumer has been agitating for the Senate to call witnesses since even before the articles of impeachment were passed, having sent a letter with his demands on Dec. 15.
Among the individuals from whom he wishes to receive testimony are former National Security Adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
McConnell stands firm
The question of witnesses has been a contentious one, with Pelosi having until now refused to send the articles unless Senate Republicans agreed to call additional witnesses before the trial began. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has consistently said he has no interest in that approach.
“It is not the Senate’s job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to guilty,” McConnell said back on Dec. 17. “That would hardly be impartial justice.”
“The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding, which House Democrats themselves were too impatient to see through, well, that suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House’s rushed process has been,” McConnell added.