Senate Republicans back plan to set up Trump impeachment trial rules

 Senate Republicans back plan to set up Trump impeachment trial rules

By Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he had enough support from his fellow Republicans to set the rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, dealing a blow to Democrats' efforts to call new witnesses against the president.

Democrats want several White House officials and Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton be allowed to testify at the trial in the Republican-controlled Senate about their knowledge of the president's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

McConnell has resisted the idea, instead seeking a fast trial based on evidence collected in the House of Representatives before it voted last month to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

While divided over whether the Senate should eventually hear more testimony, there are enough votes among Republicans to leave that decision until later in the trial, McConnell told a news conference.

Senator Lindsey Graham said 51 of the 53 Republicans in the Senate were backing that plan.

“We’ve got the votes necessary to start the trial using the Clinton model, which is good news," Graham said, referring to an arrangement made during the 1999 impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton after Republicans and Democrats were similarly deadlocked over the question of witness testimony.

House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spearheaded Trump's impeachment in the Democratic-controlled House, has given no sign she is ready to allow the charges to be submitted to the Senate, effectively putting a hold on any schedule for a trial.

Pelosi's office said no decision has been made on the timeline for sending the articles of impeachment and that Democrats are backing the strategy of holding onto them for the time being.

Republican Senator John Cornyn complained that Democrats were stalling and preventing the chamber from conducting other business.

"There's other things we could and should be doing," Cornyn said. "We know how this is going to end," he added, referring to the Senate trial.

The trial is likely to lead to Trump's acquittal before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up, as no Republicans have voiced support for removing him from office. A two-thirds majority of the Senate is needed to vote to oust a president.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2020 02:14:51 IST