By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — The US House is expected to vote to impeach President Trump Wednesday, setting the stage for a trial in the US Senate.

Democrats and Republicans have gone back and forth about what that will look like, with particular rancor over a crucial element of the trial — who should testify.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to hear from Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, senior adviser to the Acting White House chief of staff Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, associate director for National Security, Office of Management and Budget. All reportedly have firsthand knowledge of what went on in the Ukraine affair.

Schumer’s request to hear from them might seem unremarkable. But to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, it’s an outrage.

“The Senate Democratic leader would apparently like our chamber to do House Democrats’ homework for them,” says McConnell. “He wants to volunteer the Senate’s time and energy on a fishing expedition.”

But it was President Trump who barred those witnesses from testifying in the House probe, which forged ahead instead of waiting for the outcome of a long court battle over their defiance of congressional subpoenas.

“Impeachment trials like most trials have witnesses,” argues Schumer. “To have none would be an aberration.”

But McConnell says “this concept is dead wrong. The Senate is meant to act as judge and jury, to hear a trial, not to rerun the entire fact-finding investigation.”

He must not remember the 1999 Senate trial of President Bill Clinton, which he participated in, where the Republicans deposed witnesses including Monica Lewinsky. McConnell told an interviewer back then: “It’s not unusual to have a witness in a trial. It’s certainly not unusual to have witnesses in an impeachment trial….the [GOP] house managers have only asked for three witnesses. I think that’s pretty modest.”

This is an extension of the Republican strategy in defense of the president – when you can’t really challenge the facts, attack the process and the protagonists instead.

It’s a classic tactic of political distraction, and we’ll soon find out if it’s more appealing to the public than the idea of getting at the truth.

Jon Keller


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