House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Sunday criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the Kentucky Republican said he would coordinate with White House counsel on “everything” regarding the looming Senate impeachment trial.
His comments come after the House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, paving the way for the final House floor vote expected this week. The full House vote will set up the Senate trial, for which senators are now gearing up.
Nadler said for Senate Republican leadership to work with the President during an impeachment trial would be a “subversion of constitutional order.”
“The Constitution prescribes a special oath for the senators when they sit as a trial in impeachment. They have to pledge to do impartial justice, and here you have the majority leader of the Senate, in effect, the foreman of the jury, saying they’re going to work hand and glove with the defense attorney,” Nadler said Sunday during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” “Now, that’s a violation of the oath they’re about to take, and it’s a complete subversion of the constitutional scheme.”
He added: “I hope…that they will do their duty and will look into this and will see the uncontroverted facts. Remember, these facts are basically uncontroverted.”
Under the Constitution, it’s up to the House to charge the President with impeachment, and the Senate to convict or acquit – making senators, including McConnell, the de facto jury.
McConnell told Fox News Thursday night, “Everything I do during this, I will be coordinating with White House counsel.”
CNN previously reported McConnell and White House counsel Pat Cipollone discussed plans to coordinate a strategy for an impeachment trial in the Senate during closed-door meetings on Thursday. While no final decisions have been made, McConnell and Cipollone agreed that when a trial begins, the House Democratic impeachment managers would have an opportunity to present, followed by Trump’s lawyers presenting the President’s defense, the sources said.
It would take 67 votes in the Senate to remove Trump, so with Republicans holding 53 seats, the President is a virtually lock to be acquitted.
A Senate trial is dictated by what ideas – for length, or structure or witnesses – can obtain the support of at least 51 senators. But as majority leader, McConnell does have more power than rank-and-file senators to shape the process.
Democrats have expressed concerns about the Kentucky Republican’s statement, with Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings having said McConnell should recuse himself entirely.
Sen. Sherrod Brown told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday he was disappointed in Republican’s “see no evil and hear no evil attitude.”
“Mitch McConnell to say he’s coordinating with the White House to make sure he’s not convicted and removed is – I just – it really is part of this see no evil, hear no evil. That is why I’m so disappointed in my colleagues’ see no evil and hear no evil attitude. That they don’t want to look at anything that might disagree with their world view of Republicanism and this President,” Brown told Tapper.
McConnell on Friday argued the same subject when speaking in Frankfort, Kentucky, that then-President Bill Clinton and Senate Democrats coordinated during Clinton’s impeachment proceedings.
“It was done during the Clinton impeachment as well,” McConnell said. “Not surprisingly, President Clinton and the Democrats in the Senate were coordinating their strategy. We’re on the same side.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Sunday made the same argument in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”
“Senators are not required like jurors in a criminal trial to be sequestered, not to talk to anyone, not to coordinate. There’s no prohibition,” Cruz said. “The Senate Democrats were all talking with the Clinton White House. You look at this. The House Democrats are all talking with the Senate Democrats. This remains a political process.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly, Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.