Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is taking the gloves off.
The Republican leader endorsed a resolution this week to dismiss President Donald Trump’s impeachment entirely if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) does not send the impeachment articles to the Senate, according to media reports. But it’s unclear if Republicans will take that step after Pelosi said she would finally stop withholding the articles Friday, NBC News reported.
McConnell seeks dismissal
For three weeks, Pelosi had attempted to pressure McConnell into setting up a Senate trial on her party’s terms, insisting that Republicans accept more witness testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton and other Trump administration officials. But McConnell has backed a fast trial with few to no witnesses, prompting Democrats to hone in on talking points that McConnell is seeking to “cover up” Trump’s supposed crimes.
The Republican leader has laughed off these complaints as mere partisan theater, and the impasse began to crumble this week when McConnell announced Tuesday that he had assembled enough votes to start a trial without any previous witness agreement, following the pattern established by former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Even several Senate Democrats said they were ready to move on, according to Fox, adding to mounting pressure for Pelosi to make a move.
As the tide began to turn in his favor, McConnell made a dramatic gesture of his contempt Thursday by co-sponsoring a resolution from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) that would empower Republicans to dismiss both articles of impeachment with a simple majority “with prejudice for failure by the House of Representatives to prosecute such articles” after 25 days, The Hill reported. But it’s unclear if McConnell will actually seek to dismiss, especially after it became clear Friday that the impasse had broken.
Dems seek “cover-up” theme
McConnell has said that he wants to hold a fast trial, rather than dismiss the articles outright, and Republicans have lined up behind him. But while Democrats may be powerless to stop McConnell, they won’t let him get his way — at least not without making some partisan noise.
As hopes of bringing in more witnesses faded, Democrats settled on talking points accusing McConnell of trying to “cover up” incriminating evidence. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had sought testimony from witnesses like Bolton, citing emails released during the standoff that they said opened new avenues of investigation, but McConnell had refused to budge.
“For weeks now, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been engaged in tactics of delay in presenting transparency, disregard for the American people’s interest for a fair trial, and dismissal of the facts,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues Friday.
According to the Associated Press, Pelosi also indicated in her Friday letter that her party would begin appointing impeachment managers next week, but it’s unclear when she will actually send the articles.
For his part, McConnell has not disguised his true feelings about the impeachment process, vowing that he would not make any pretenses of impartiality as he promised “total coordination” with the White House.
“The speaker began something that she herself predicted would be ‘so divisive to the country’…and now she is unilaterally saying it cannot move forward towards a resolution,” he said Thursday.
Asked what he thought of Pelosi caving, McConnell was curt. “About time,” he said, according to NBC.