With the U.S. House of Representatives expected to impeach President Donald Trump this week, the top Democrat in the Senate is calling for the chamber that will conduct the impeachment trial to hear from four key Trump administration witnesses.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday that the Senate should subpoena acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and top Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, as well as former National Security Adviser John Bolton and budget official Michael Duffey.
Schumer noted House committees conducting the impeachment investigation asked all four officials to appear for questioning, but none did.
McConnell has raised the prospect of a short trial with no witnesses called, and said he would be coordinating with the White House as he plans the trial.
A McConnell spokesman said he would be meeting with Schumer to work out how to conduct the proceedings.
Schumer also proposed in the letter the amount of time House members and White House lawyers would have for opening arguments, how much time Senators would have to question them, and the amount of time allotted for witness testimony, closing arguments and deliberations before Senators deliver their verdict.
"We believe this proposal…will allow for a trial in which all of the facts can be considered fully and fairly, and in which final votes can be taken within a reasonable period of time, without any unnecessary delay," Schumer wrote.
The House is expected to vote Wednesday to approve the two articles of impeachment the House Judiciary Committee passed last week. The trial in the Republican-majority Senate would take place in January with a conviction and Trump's removal from office unlikely.
The House Judiciary Committee, over unified Republican opposition, accused Trump of abusing the power of the presidency by soliciting Ukraine to investigate one of his chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and then obstructing congressional review of his actions by refusing to turn over thousands of pages of documents to impeachment investigators and blocking key Trump aides from testifying.
The rancor from the imminent impeachment of Trump played out on Sunday's news talk shows in the U.S., with no political agreement on the merits of the case against him.
"We will have done our duty in the House," Congressman Jerrold Nadler told ABC's "This Week" show, two days after the House Judiciary Committee he chairs approved two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The president has ridiculed the impeachment effort, again Sunday describing his request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the politically tinged investigation as "a PERFECT phone call."
On Twitter, he recalled his conversation: "'Can you do us (not me. Us is referring to our Country) a favor.' Then go on to talk about 'Country' and 'U.S. Attorney General.' The Impeachment Hoax is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which has been going on for 3 years. We will win!"
A PERFECT phone call. “Can you do us (not me. Us is referring to our Country) a favor.” Then go on to talk about “Country” and “U.S. Attorney General.” The Impeachment Hoax is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which has been going on for 3 years. We will win! #MAGAKAG #2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019
Nadler contended, "This president conspired, sought foreign interference in the 2016 election. He is openly seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election. We cannot permit that to continue."
"This is a crime in progress against the Constitution and against the American democracy," Nadler said.
On the same show, Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that held weeks of hearings on Trump's alleged wrong-doing, asked, "Why won't Republicans do their duty" to hold Trump accountable? He said if Trump's immediate predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, had made the same overtures to Zelenskiy for an investigation of a political opponent, "I would vote to impeach him."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a staunch Trump supporter who would be be one of 100 jurors to hear the case against Trump at a Senate trial, contended on the same ABC show that Nadler and Schiff were engaged in "partisan attacks" against Trump and said there is "zero evidence" of a crime committed by Trump.
Cruz argued that "the House Democrats hate the president." He said it was "perfectly within the duties of the president" to ask that Zelenskiy investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden's role as a board member of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to undermine Trump's campaign. The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump win.
On CNN, another Trump supporter, Sen. Rand Paul, called the president's impending impeachment a "very partisan thing," saying Democrats have "decided to criminalize politics."
Trump made his request for the Biden investigations to Zelenskiy at a time when he was temporarily blocking $391 million in military aid that Ukraine wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. He released the money in September without Zelenskiy opening any investigations of the Bidens.
Cruz said Trump's request to Zelenskiy for the Biden investigations was justified because the elder Biden, when he was vice president, was "publicly bragging" that he withheld aid that Ukraine wanted at the time until a prosecutor who had once investigated Burisma was fired.
Democrats say the difference between the two cases is that Biden's request for the ouster of the Ukrainian prosecutor, deemed weak on corruption by the West, was part of U.S. policy supported by the European Union, while Trump's bid for the Biden probe was linked to U.S. elections, in particular related to a 2020 rival when Trump is seeking a second term in the White House.