Mitch McConnell abruptly changed the rules surrounding Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial on Tuesday to keep it from airing in the early hours of the morning after moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins and other lawmakers raised their concerns.
‘Senator Collins and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the House transcript in the record. Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible. She thinks these changes are a significant improvement,’ Collins spokesperson Annie Clark said in a statement.
The changes – made shortly before Tuesday’s session began – spreads the 24 hours given to each side to make their case to the Senate over three days instead of the two McConnell originally proposed.
That would keep arguments from going until 1 a.m., when viewership would be low. Instead they would end in the evening – likely around 9 p.m. Democrats had objected to the original proposal, charging the Senate Republican Leader of trying to help the president with a coverup.
Mitch McConnell abruptly changed the rules surrounding impeachment trial
Changes came after moderate Sen. Susan Collins and others objected
Sen. Charles Schumer and other Democrats accused McConnell of a ‘cover up’ with his rules proposal
‘It appears Leader McConnell decided to go along with the president’s desire to cover up his wrongdoing,’ Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Tuesday before the trial began.
But while McConnell can afford to lose Democratic support, he can’t afford to lose any of his Republican senators as his party only has a three-vote majority.
And thus the changes were made. And they came so quickly they were simply hand written on the original resolution instead of a fresh copy being submitted.
McConnell’s new resolution, proposed by the Senate Republican Leader on Tuesday, also automatically enters the House evidence against the president into the Senate record instead of the senators having to vote on making that happen.
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was another lawmaker who raised concerns about McConnell’s original resolution, CNN reported.
He told the network that two long days in the chamber for each side to present their case could make it appear Republicans were trying to jam Democrats.
Changes to McConnell’s resolution were made so fast they were hand written
‘I hope that can be worked out,’ he said. ‘I’m told it’s being worked on.’
Republican moderate Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are also being closely watched for their take on the rules governing the presidential’s trial.
Democrats only need four Republican votes to get their way on the rules.
Trump’s trial got off to an angry clash on Tuesday as Rep. Adam Schiff accusing the president of engaging in a ‘corrupt’ effort to get Ukraine to help him ‘cheat’ in his reelection.
Schiff, a California Democrat who is heading a team of impeachment managers, made his case before 100 senators seated at their desks – telling them they must provide for a ‘fair trial’ that lets each side make its case. But his initial argument, put forward over the rules of the trial themselves, didn’t keep him from digging into the Ukraine affair that constitutes the first article of impeachment against him.
President Trump ‘seeks the full and complete destruction of a co-equal branch of government,’ said Schiff, who played video of Trump saying the Constitution’s Article II gives him the power to ‘do whatever I want.’
Trump’s attorneys, led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, argued the president did not commit an impeachable offense.
President Trump’s lawyers argued Democrats have no case against the president
Republican Sen. Rob Portman (left), seen with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and John Barrasso, also expressed concerns about the rules governing the trial
Senators Mitt Romney (left) and Lisa Murkowski (right) are being watched for their votes
‘They have no case. Frankly, they have no charge,’ he said in his opening remarks.
Trump, meanwhile, in Davos for the World Economic Forum, called the proceedings ‘a total hoax’ and said: ‘I’m sure it’s going to work out fine.’
The fireworks began at 1:17pm, as Chief Justice John Roberts took the chair – 17 minutes behind schedule – and began by swearing in Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who missed the formal swearing in last week.
It is a dramatic moment in history: the Senate will now adjudicate just the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president, with Trump and his ‘perfect’ call to Ukraine on trial before a jury of 100 senators – 53 of them from the party the president has dominated for three years.
The day, thus far, has been dominated by procedural issues.
Schumer proposed an amendment to McConnell’s resolution laying out the trial process to allow Democrats to subpoena documents from the administration related to Trump’s communications with the president of the Ukraine and on intra-administration communication on the with holding – and later release – of U.S. military aid to the Ukraine.
‘Right off the bat Republican senators will face a choice about getting the facts or joining Leader McConnell and President Trump in covering them up,’ Schumer said Tuesday morning before he made his motion.