When the Senate reconvenes Tuesday to kick off President Trump’s impeachment trial, lawmakers will begin by debating the rules that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out Monday. To say Democrats are upset would be an understatement.
“This is just appalling,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday morning about the proposal. Democrats have three primary points of contention with the rules. First, the decision over whether the Senate should hear from witnesses would be delayed. Second, evidence gathered by the House would not automatically be admitted. And third, strict time limits would be placed on the impeachment trial.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, who is also serving as one of the Democratic impeachment managers, said, “They are compressing the time of the trial … McConnell hopes the American people will not be watching,”
McConnell’s proposal, which is expected to be adopted by a party-line vote later Tuesday, would allow both sides 24 hours to make their arguments over the course of two days. Given the 1 p.m. start time, that means arguments could go into the early morning hours. Democrats have called this a “cover-up.”
This detail is what led reporter Carl Bernstein to give McConnell a new nickname. Monday on CNN, Bernstein accused McConnell of “embracing a cover-up” and dubbed him “Midnight Mitch.” Soon the nickname, which McConnell is sure to embrace, was trending on Twitter.
McConnell had previously claimed that the rules for Trump’s impeachment trial would be the same as the rules used two decades ago in Bill Clinton’s trial. But by forcing arguments to be made in just two days, he’s broken with the Clinton-era precedent.
McConnell’s proposal also breaks with the Clinton impeachment rules by failing to automatically admit House findings into evidence. Instead, House findings will only be admitted by a majority vote.
Democrats are expected to mount vigorous opposition to the McConnell resolution Tuesday, with Schumer promising to offer “amendments to address the many flaws in this deeply unfair proposal.” There’s no reason to expect any of his amendments to pass.