- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2019

President Trump interrupted his holiday break in Florida on Tuesday to rail against the Democrats’ demands on his Senate impeachment trial, saying they have the gall to expect Republicans to help them railroad him.

He vouched for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unflinching stance in the standoff with Democratic leaders about how to proceed with a trial.

“We have the majority and now they want Mitch McConnell to do wonderful things for them. He’s going to do what he wants to do — very smart guy, very good guy, very fair guy,” the president told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, where he’s spending Christmas and New Year’s.

“They treated us very unfairly and now they want fairness in the Senate,” fumed Mr. Trump.

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, have hit an impasse in planning the procedures. Mr. Schumer demands at least four new witnesses testify at the trial, while Mr. McConnell plans to stick with the same process afforded President Bill Clinton in his 1999 impeachment trial.

Back then, the chamber unanimously agreed to hear from the House impeachment managers and then from the president’s team before deciding whether to call witnesses.

Mr. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, think they can force the Republican majority leader to bend to their will.

Ms. Pelosi is holding on to the two articles of impeachment passed last week on a party-line vote, refusing to send them to the Senate until she is satisfied it will be a fair trial.

“The House cannot choose our impeachment managers until we know what sort of trial the Senate will conduct,” tweeted Mrs. Pelosi. “President Trump blocked his own witnesses and documents from the House, and from the American people, on phony complaints about the House process. What is his excuse now?”

Republicans, though, are left scratching their heads as to what leverage Mrs. Pelosi thinks she has in making demands to the Senate on how it carries out its duty, with the upper chamber being controlled by Republicans.

“I’m not anxious to have this trial, so if she wants to hang on to these papers, go right ahead,” Mr. McConnell told Fox News on Monday.

On Tuesday, the president pointed to the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee as an example of a process he says was stacked against him. “They got three lawyers, we got one,” he said.

Majorities typically have more witnesses than the minority in committee hearings.

Mr. Trump said Mrs. Pelosi is pursuing impeachment out of a personal vendetta.

“She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party,” he said. “She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country, and she’s not doing a great job. And some people think she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

The Senate can’t begin to hold a trial until the articles of impeachment, which charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, are handed up from the lower chamber. In a court filing earlier this week apropos a legal dispute over House efforts to compel testimony from White House officials, Democrats said more articles are a possibility.

The Senate can carry on its regular business until the articles are transferred.

The stark partisan divide on impeachment all but assures Mr. Trump will be acquitted by the Senate, where it takes a two-thirds majority of the 100 senators to convict and remove a president from office.

Republicans charge that House Democrats rushed their case against Mr. Trump, deciding not to go to court to get documents and witnesses during the three-month impeachment inquiry. They say the executive branch is entitled to assert privileges, and it is up to the judiciary to settle such squabbles.

Democrats accuse Mr. McConnell of trying to run a sham trial and being incapable of acting as an impartial juror because he is “in cahoots” with the White House and biased, claims Mr. McConnell has pooh-poohed as unserious coming from the party of Sens. Bernard Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The House Democrats’ abuse of power charge stems from Mr. Trump asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a leading candidate to oppose Mr. Trump in the 2020 general election. Mr. Trump’s defenders say the president wanted to probe corruption tied to a Ukrainian energy company which paid Hunter Biden about $50,000 a month to sit on its board during Mr. Biden’s time as vice president.

The second charge arises from Mr. Trump refusing to comply with subpoenas from the impeachment inquiry, which also is being litigated in federal court.

Mr. Schumer has repeatedly called for more documents and administration officials to testify, such as White House Office of Management and Budget’s Michael Duffey. He cited newly released government emails that he said required more testimony about the decision to delay nearly $400 million of military aid to Ukraine at a press conference in New York Monday.

One “explosive” email, according to Mr. Schumer, appears to link the OMB’s move to delay the military aid and the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked for the investigations.

Though the email was sent out about 90 minutes after the call, the OMB denied any link to Mr. Trump’s request for an investigation of the Bidens, a request Mr. Zelensky had not flatly ruled out during the phone call. No Ukrainian investigation came from the phone call and the aid was quickly released.

Mr. Trump has said in the past he would like to call witnesses to defend the charges, pointing to the whistleblower who is responsible for launching the impeachment probe by disclosing details about the call with the Ukrainian president. Republicans have also suggested they could call Hunter Biden to testify about his dealings with Ukraine.

Mr. McConnell has maintained that the question of witnesses can be decided after opening arguments and written questions have been presented.

“We haven’t ruled out witnesses. We have said let’s handle it like we did with President [Bill] Clinton. Fair is fair,” he said. “We’re at an impasse. We can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoys the holidays.”Lawmakers are set to return to Washington the week of Jan. 6.

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