IMPEACHMENT: Mitch McConnel’s Opening Remarks Set The Tone Of What Is To Come

Written by Wes Walker on January 21, 2020

We see this process framed by a very sort of different rhetoric coming from either side of the aisle. Schumer and the Democrats were heavy on melodrama, while McConnell made his appeal to institutions, tradition, and reasonable justice.

The final oath has been taken. Both leaders have made their opening statements.

Here is Mitch setting up what is to come.

‘COCAINE’ MITCH: Last Thursday, the United States Senate crossed one of the gravest thresholds that exist in our system government. We began just the third Presidential impeachment trial in American history. This is a unique responsibility that the Framers of our Constitution knew that the Senate — and only the Senate — could handle. Our Founders trusted the Senate to rise above short-term passions and factionalism. They trusted the Senate to soberly consider what has actually been proven and which outcome best serves the nation. That’s a pretty high bar, Mr. President. And you might say that later today, this Body will take our entrance exam. 

Today we will consider and pass an organizing resolution that will structure the first phase of the trial. This initial step will offer an early signal to our country. Can the Senate still serve our founding purpose? Can we still put fairness, evenhandedness, and historical precedent ahead of the partisan passions of the day? Today’s vote will contain some answers. 

The organizing resolution we’ll put forward already has the support of a majority of the Senate. That’s because it sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded, and tracks closely with past precedents that were established unanimously. After pre-trial business, the resolution establishes the four things that need to happen next. First, the Senate will hear an opening presentation from the House Managers. Second, we will hear from the President’s counsel. Third, Senators will be able to seek further information about posing written questions to either side through the Chief Justice. And fourth, with all that information in hand, the Senate will consider whether we feel any additional evidence or witnesses are necessary to evaluate whether the House case has cleared, or failed to clear, the high bar of overcoming the presumption of innocence and undoing a democratic election. 

The Senate’s fair process will draw a sharp contrast with the unfair and precedent-breaking inquiry that was carried on by the House of Representatives. The House broke with precedent by denying members of the Republican minority the same rights that Democrats had received when they were in the minority back in 1998. If you’re in the Senate, every single Senator will have exactly the same rights and exactly the same ability to ask questions. The House broke with fairness by cutting President Trump’s counsel out of their inquiry to an unprecedented degree. Here in the Senate, the President’s lawyers will finally receive a level playing field with the House Democrats and will finally be able to present the President’s case. Finally, some fairness. 

On every point, our straightforward resolution will bring the clarity and fairness that everyone deserves — the President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the American people.

This is the fair roadmap for our trial. We need it in place before we move forward. So the Senate should prepare to remain in session today until we complete this resolution and adopt it. This basic, four-part structure aligns with the first steps of the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999. Twenty-one years ago,  one hundred Senators agreed unanimously that this roadmap was the right way to begin the trial. All a hundred Senators agreed the proper time to consider the question of potential witnesses was after — after Opening Arguments and Senators’ questions.

Now some outside voices have been urging the Senate to break with precedent on this question. Loud voices — including the leadership of the House Majority colluded with Senate Democrats and tried to force the Senate to pre-commit ourselves to seek specific witnesses and documents before Senators had even heard Opening Arguments or even asked questions. These are potential witnesses, Mr. President, whom the House Managers themselves — themselves declined to hear from. Whom the House itself, declined to pursue through the legal system during its own inquiry. The House was not facing any deadline. They were free to run whatever investigation they wanted to run. If they wanted witnesses who would trigger legal battles over Presidential privilege, they could have had those fights, but the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee decided not to. They decided that their inquiry was finished and moved right ahead. The House chose not to pursue the same witnesses they apparently would now like — would now like — the Senate to pre-commit to pursuing ourselves. As I have been saying for weeks, nobody — nobody — will dictate Senate procedures to United States Senators. A majority of us are committed to upholding the unanimous, bipartisan Clinton precedent against outside influences with respect to the proper timing of these mid-trial questions. 

And that was ‘Cocaine’ Mitch just getting started. He also said that he wasn’t going to put up with B.S. from Democrats and committed to tabling any amendment that would go against the Clinton impeachment precedent.

Among other things, he anticipates Schumer’s various promised amendments and promises to table them until such time he is ready to consider them.

On the other side, Chuck made some grand objections about what does he have to hide, about testimony given ‘in the dead of night’ (as though Schiff doesn’t still have exculpatory information that was not released from his super-secret bunker hearings).

He complained they were ‘entirely partisan’.

Here is his reply.

And so, love it or hate it, the process has finally begun.

Next up is the back and forth between the President’s council and Schiff’s squad over whether the Senate should accept the rules as proffered by Mitch McConnell.