Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned his colleagues Tuesday in a speech on the Senate floor that calling witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump would prolong the process.
McConnell was speaking ahead of the opening of the impeachment trial proceedings, arguing in favor of a procedural motion that will allow opening arguments by both sides before the Senate takes a second vote on whether to call additional witnesses.
The McConnell resolution roughly follows the model used in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. Democrats want to call additional witnesses, despite claiming they have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
But McConnell admonished Democrats for attempting to call witnesses that they could have called in the House, but either chose not to call, or chose not to wait for while the courts adjudicated complex issues of executive privilege.
The president enjoys a well-established legal privilege against the disclosure of deliberations with his advisers, who might not offer the best or most honest advice if they knew anything they said could subsequently be made public.
The executive privilege has limits, and the courts typically are asked to intervene when there are conflicts with the legislature over what may be withheld and what must be disclosed within oversight or impeachment proceedings.
Democrats impeached Trump for “obstruction of Congress” for attempting to exercise his executive privilege. Now they want the Seante to call witnesses such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton — who they did not call in the House — and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who rejected a House subpoena.
But the fact that the Senate, and not the House, would call them would not dispose of the executive privilege issue.
McConnell warned that any attempt to call witnesses who work for, or once worked for, the president will still face a “protracted and complex legal fight over presidential privilege” — which would prolong the Senate impeachment trial.
That could be a problem for Senate Democrats, several of whom are running for president and would be required to stay in Washington, DC, rather than campaigning in early primary states. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 3.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.