Louisville Courier Journal
Published 4:23 PM EST Jan 13, 2020
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Monday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "strange gambit" to withhold the articles of impeachment against Trump from the Senate in hopes of influencing how he and his colleagues conduct the trial has failed.
He appeared encouraged by news that Pelosi finally may send the articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, which the House of Representatives approved on Dec. 18, 2019, to the Senate later this week.
"Well I'm glad the speaker finally realized she never had any leverage in the first place," McConnell said in a brief speech on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. "In terms of influencing Senate proceedings, this strange gambit has achieved absolutely nothing."
The Kentucky Republican referred to Pelosi's recent tactic as a "one-woman blockade" of an impeachment trial.
McConnell's latest comments on impeachment came a day after Pelosi warned in a television interview that dismissing the impeachment case would constitute a "cover-up."
Pelosi took aim, in particular, at McConnell's decision to sign onto a proposed Senate resolution that would allow the chamber to dismiss articles of impeachment if the House fails to send them over within 25 days of adopting them.
Mitch McConnell: Senate has the votes to set impeachment trial rules
"Dismissing is a cover-up," Pelosi said during an interview Sunday on ABC News' program "This Week."
Pelosi said senators will be accountable for how they handle the impeachment case, especially concerning whether they vote to let witnesses testify during the trial.
McConnell has said he has enough votes among the Senate's majority Republican members to press forward with a framework for the trial that would delay the decision over whether to call witnesses until after opening arguments are made.
Pelosi has been highly critical of that approach and said a majority of Americans think there should be witness testimony during the trial.
“I think that he will be accountable to the American people for that," she said of how McConnell deals with the witness issue.
The Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, has called for the chamber to order specific witnesses to testify during the impeachment trial.
However, McConnell and other congressional Republicans have suggested Democrats should have pursued testimony from more witnesses during the House's impeachment inquiry rather than demanding the Senate do so.
Even without the testimony of sought-after potential witnesses such as Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, Pelosi indicated she thinks the evidence the House gathered during its inquiry warrants Trump's removal from office.
"We have confidence in our case ... and this president is impeached for life, regardless of any gamesmanship on the part of Mitch McConnell," she said Sunday on TV.
John Yarmuth: Nancy Pelosi should submit articles of impeachment soon
However, McConnell seemed unmoved by Pelosi's comments (or other people's criticism of his approach to impeachment) when he spoke on the Senate floor Monday.
"By trying and failing to get the Senate to precommit to redoing the House's investigation, House Democrats admitted that even they do not believe their own case is persuasive," he said.
Also on Monday, a nonprofit organization called Public Citizen announced it filed an ethics complaint against McConnell concerning public statements he has made about the Trump impeachment case.
Public Citizen said it filed the complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and is asking for an investigation of whether McConnell's previous comments — including that he's "not impartial about this at all" — violate his constitutional obligations as well as Senate rules requiring impartiality in impeachment proceedings.
On its website, Public Citizen bills itself as a consumer advocacy group that works "to ensure that government works for the people — not for big corporations."
Trump's reelection bid is the country's top political concern this year, but McConnell is also running to win another term in the Senate this November. And that race is getting national attention, too.
The Washington Post posted a story Sunday that spotlighted how McConnell's stated intention to coordinate with the White House on the trial and his lack of interest in approaching this impeachment in an impartial way is expected to play well with Kentucky voters, who overwhelmingly supported Trump in the 2016 election.
Related: Pelosi warns McConnell he will 'pay a price' if GOP engages in 'cover-up'
Contact reporter Morgan Watkins at [email protected] and 502-582-4502 or follow her on Twitter @morganwatkins26.