WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans are moving to pass a package of rules governing the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump without votes from Democrats, punting a decision about whether to call witnesses until after the trial is underway and spurning —for now —an offer for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, according to GOP officials.
Republican leaders are asking each GOP senator whether they would support such an outline and appear to be on the brink of surpassing the 51 votes they would need.
The process Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to pursue mirrors the procedural outline the Senate used when it held an impeachment trial for President Bill Clinton in 1999.
But importantly, the Clinton deal was the byproduct of tough, bipartisan negotiations, passing the Senate 100-0. McConnell, R-Ky., now is preparing to move forward without any Democratic votes.
Under the plan, the Senate would hear opening statements and then determine whether it needs to hear from witnesses and gather more documents, or whether it should move to end the trial without them.
“We’re trying to see right now” if the Clinton rule will be the path forward, said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “I think you might hear something after the lunch today.”
McConnell is expected to address the issue publicly Tuesday afternoon after Republican senators hold a lunch meeting.
Democrats have blasted that idea, arguing that it sets up an opportunity for Republicans to deliver a “mock trial” to the public while still delivering a victory for Trump. Democrats are not expected to come anywhere close to the 67 votes they would need to remove the president from office during the trial.
For now, movement toward the Senate trial has stalled because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to forward the articles of impeachment the House voted for in mid-December. Democrats hoped the delay would give them more leverage in shaping the Senate trial, but McConnell has rebuffed their efforts.
It is unclear when Pelosi, D-Calif., may transit the articles. The Senate can’t act before she does.