Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republicans at a private lunch on Tuesday that in order to properly defend President Donald Trump from the Democrats’ secretive impeachment effort they must concentrate on the “process” that is under way.
“This is going to be about process,” McConnell said at the lunch, according to an unidentified Republican, who spoke to the Hill.
“What is clear and not in dispute, as Sen. [Roy] Blunt (R-MO) has pointed out, is the process in the House to which the president is being subjected is totally unprecedented and totally unfair,” McConnell told reporters after the lunch meeting.
McConnell and other lawmakers spoke of the difference between the impeachment process going on under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Speaker Carl Albert (D-OK), who served during the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
The Hill reported on the contrast:
Albert in 1973 and 1974 gave Republicans much more of an opportunity to participate in the process, they said.
McConnell also said Democrats in the minority were treated better by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) during the impeachment of President Clinton than today’s Republicans.
“Speaker Albert laid out procedural guidelines during the Nixon episode — Speaker Gingrich during the Clinton impeachment episode — all of which included the kind of basic procedural safeguards that one associates in our country with being treated fairly,” McConnell said.
[McConnell is] telling his members they have plenty of reason to offer a vigorous defense of Trump, as the president publicly urged them to do Monday, by focusing on Democratic tactics that McConnell and Trump view as unfair.
The Hill reported on the secrecy of the Democrats investigation and how difficult that makes it to formulate a way to respond to it on the president’s behalf:
Senate Republicans also privately make the point that it’s difficult to defend Trump on the substance of the charges against him because so much remains unknown.
GOP lawmakers don’t know the identity of the whistleblower who filed a complaint against Trump or what exactly House Democrats have discovered in their investigation, which has been conducted largely behind closed doors.
“A Republican senator who spoke on condition of anonymity said McConnell gave his colleagues leeway to express opposition to various Trump actions, such as pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria, but urged them to stick together on process,” the Hill reported.
“He feels everybody is free to talk about issues like Ukraine or maybe the Kurds, but to try to conduct an impeachment without any process is very contrary to what happened before,” the lawmaker said. “That pretty much sums it up.”
“A second Republican senator said McConnell and Blunt thought it made sense to give the Senate GOP conference a primer on past impeachment proceedings,” the Hill reported.
“It was a logical second place to go after the informational hearing on how impeachment will work in the Senate so members will know when they are talking about this process why it’s different than the way this has been done before,” the lawmaker said. “It’s one thing to say it’s unfair. It’s another thing to say here are all the boxes that were checked for Clinton and Nixon, and none of these boxes have been checked for this president.”
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