Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he plans to proceed with President Donald Trump's trial the way former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial worked in the late 1990s. The problem, however, is he's already shown he isn't following that format.
In an MSNBC interview, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said that the Clinton trial had over 40 witnesses in preliminary hearings. Trump, by contrast, is blocking first-hand witnesses from complying with subpoenas.
"I respect [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's] judgment as to what the right time will be to send over the articles of impeachment," Van Hollen said. "Because of her action, we've had a very public discussion throughout the country about what constitutes a fair trial and the fact that witnesses and documents are essential to that fair trial. I don't think we would have seen that level of attention. What you would have seen if Mitch McConnell had gotten those articles, he would have immediately launched into the proceedings the way he wants to without that discussion."
Today there is far more pressure on Senators to hold a fair trial, he said.
"I mean, my goodness, we had John Bolton, who we know from Dr. Fiona Hill's testimony, describe the president's holdup of Ukraine aid as a drug deal," Van Hollen recalled. "And you still got people like Mitch McConnell and Republicans who don't think that the guy who is witness to the drug deal should come and give personal testimony? President Trump, on December 13th, said he wanted Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, to testify at a Senate trial. Well, we do too."
He said what Pelosi has done is focus more attention on these facts and fight for a fair trial. Interestingly, Republicans complained that the House investigation was going too fast, and they wanted Democrats to wait until court trials were decided on the subpoenas and requested documents. Those cases still have not been completed, but now Republicans are complaining Democrats are taking too long.
"I would finally say on this point that Mitch McConnell says he wants to do this like the Clinton trial," Van Hollen closed. "Well, in the Clinton trial, as you know, all the witnesses they wanted to call had already testified under oath in previous proceedings. In this case, none of the witnesses that we want to call have testified under oath in previous proceedings because the president has blocked them from doing it. So, at some point, we're going to have a vote on this fundamental issue of fairness in a trial. And I think Speaker Pelosi's strategy has helped highlight the importance of this issue."
Watch his comments below: