Chuck Schumer finally got an answer to his letter to Mitch McConnell … but he’s not going to like it. The Senate Majority Leader offered an amused but cutting rebuttal to his counterpart’s demand that Republicans force four current and former administration officials to testify at the all-but-certain Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Not only does Schumer’s demand for witnesses suggest “coordination with people outside the Senate,” McConnell says with a grin, it also suggests that the House Democrats’ process has “left the Democratic leader with the same impression they have left with many of us”:
Senate Mitch McConnell dismisses Sen. Chuck Schumer's proposal to call live witnesses: "Those who have been eagerly hoping for impeachment are starting to scramble." https://t.co/xa5CKnlxHI pic.twitter.com/7OUlLD5R82
— ABC News (@ABC) December 17, 2019
McConnell made it clear that he was less amused by Schumer’s choice of releasing his letter to the media rather than dealing with him directly:
“It is not the Senate’s job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to ‘guilty,’” McConnell said, a reply to Schumer’s request that the Senate agree to call several Trump administration officials as witnesses for the trial in the same resolution that lays out the impeachment trial’s rules of the road.
McConnell said he still hopes to meet with Schumer but scolded him for releasing his letter to the press before their meeting. Schumer’s letter came after McConnell has repeatedly vowed that the Senate will clear Trump of wrongdoing.
Still, it’s pretty clear that McConnell’s having a lot of fun poking holes in Schumer’s arguments, and especially at his own “slapdash work product.” McConnell points out early in his floor speech that Schumer misquoted the Constitution and got the impeachment process backward:
Sen. Mitch McConnell calls Sen. Chuck Schumer's letter on procedure for possible Senate impeachment trial "an interesting letter."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 17, 2019
McConnell’s office sent out a broadcast e-mail in support of this argument. Schumer’s letter argued for a trial “that exercises the Senate’s ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ under the Constitution with integrity and dignity.” As McConnell notes, the Senate does not have “the sole Power of Impeachment.” That belongs to the House under Article I Section 2. The Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. That’s a sloppy error, easily caught and easily lampooned, especially in a letter making demands based on Schumer’s interpretation of the Constitution.
Nor is that the only inconsistency that McConnell’s office is highlighting. Schumer’s demanding a trial now, but Schumer actually voted to dismiss Bill Clinton’s impeachment without a trial, although that vote ended up failing. Schumer told the press at the time that “I hope a trial doesn’t go forward. And I am starting from this moment on to explore every possible way to avoid a trial.” Schumer fought against subpoenas for fact witnesses at the trial as well, and in that case an actual statutory crime by Bill Clinton (perjury) had been well established in the House impeachment — and in court as well.
McConnell says he’s still open to “the preferable path” of an in-person conversation with Schumer. At this point, such a meeting might require the use of seconds.