Trump Impeachment: US Senate fight over witnesses

On the eve of the vote, Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to all 232 Democratic members of the House, urging them to defend the Constitution.

“Very sadly, the facts have made clear that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit and that he obstructed Congress as he demanded that he is above accountability, above the Constitution and above the American people,” she said.

House Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate Biden, a former U.S. vice president and a leading Democratic contender to oppose him in the 2020 election. Trump is also accused of obstructing the congressional investigation into the matter.

Members of the House Rules Committee set a six-hour limit for debate before the vote on Wednesday by the full House, which is expected to result in Trump becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached.

No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process set out in the Constitution.

Earlier, the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell brushed aside a Democratic request to call four current or former White House officials as witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial expected next month, again making clear that he expects senators not to remove Trump from office.

In dueling speeches on the Senate floor, McConnell said he would not allow a “fishing expedition” after a “slapdash” House impeachment process, while Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said a trial without witnesses would be a “sham” and suggested Trump’s fellow Republicans favored a cover-up.

McConnell said on the floor it was the Senate’s role simply to act as a “judge and jury,” but he later told reporters that he would not be “an impartial juror.”

“This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it,” he said. “Impeachment is a political decision.”

Schumer said he was “utterly amazed” by McConnell’s remark. He had said he wants the trial to consider documents and hear testimony from four witnesses: former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair and budget official Michael Duffey.

Trump has refused to cooperate with the House impeachment process and ordered current and former officials like those mentioned by Schumer not to testify or provide documents.

McConnell and Schumer both said they expected to meet soon to discuss how to proceed.

“What is Leader McConnell afraid of? What is President Trump afraid of? The truth?” Schumer asked on the Senate floor.

“If you’re trying to conceal evidence and block testimony, it’s probably not because the evidence is going to help your case. It’s because you’re trying to cover something up,” Schumer added.