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McConnell, Schumer address Iran policy and their deadlock over impeachment

McConnell says Senate can't hold trial without the articles
Mitch McConnell says Senate can't hold trial without the articles of impeachment 01:00

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about impeachment and foreign policy as the Senate convened on Friday, after President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani.

"The architect and chief engineer for the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism has been removed from the battlefield at the hand of the United States military," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "Now his terrorist leadership has been ended."

McConnell took a veiled shot at Democrats who have expressed skepticism about the strike, urging them to withhold judgment until the administration had provided more information.

"I recommend that all senators wait to review the facts and hear from the administration before passing much public judgment on this operation and its potential consequences," McConnell said, adding that the administration would be briefing Senate staff on Friday, and would provide a full briefing to the Senate next week.

Lawmakers are divided over the strike, with Democrats arguing it could lead to an escalation of violence in the Middle East and Republicans praising Mr. Trump for taking decisive action. Schumer was not informed of the strike before it occurred, CNN reported.

In his speech, Schumer said that it was important for the president to consult with Congress before making critical foreign policy decisions.

"It is paramount for administrations to get an outside view to prevent groupthink and rash action," Schumer said. "The administration did not consult in this case."

He questioned the legal basis for conducting the operation, as well as how the administration plans "to avoid a larger and potentially endless conflagration in the Middle East."

"It is my view that the president does not have the authority for a war in Iran," Schumer said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers remain at an impasse over Mr. Trump's impeachment trial. Schumer has called for witnesses from the White House, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, but McConnell has rebuffed the request.

After addressing the strike against Soleimani, McConnell slammed the impeachment inquiry spearheaded by House Democrats.

"Democrats have let 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' develop into a kind of partisan fever," McConnell said. He argued that senators have a right to think politically during an impeachment trial, despite swearing an oath of impartiality.

Although the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump in December, the Senate is still waiting for the House to send the articles of impeachment.

McConnell accused House Democrats of developing "cold feet" by choosing not to immediately send the articles to the Senate, and said they were "searching desperately for some new talking point" on impeachment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far declined to send the articles to the Senate. She said in December she wants to wait to "see the process that's set forth in the Senate" before appointing the House impeachment managers who will act as prosecutors in the Senate trial. The House is also expected to vote on a resolution designating the impeachment before delivering the articles. 

Speaking on the Senate floor Friday, McConnell said it's a "non-starter" for Pelosi "to hand-design" the Senate trial. He also called out out Schumer for campaigning in 1998 on opposition to President Clinton's impeachment, responding to the accusation that McConnell has prejudged Mr. Trump's case.

"One symptom of Trump derangement syndrome is a bad case of amnesia," McConnell said with a small grin. He also noted that Senate rules do not allow an impeachment trial to begin until the House sends the articles.

"Their turn is over. They've done enough damage," McConnell said about the House. "It's the Senate's turn now to render sober judgment as the framers envisioned. But we can't hold a trial without the articles."

In a statement responding to McConnell, Pelosi gave no indication of when the House would transmit the articles to the Senate.

"Today, Leader McConnell made clear that he will feebly comply with President Trump's cover-up of his abuses of power and be an accomplice to that cover-up," Pelosi said. "Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution.  The GOP Senate must immediately proceed in a manner worthy of the Constitution and in light of the gravity of the President's unprecedented abuses."

Schumer also countered in his speech that McConnell was trying to defend holding an impartial, unfair trial.

"As all eyes turn to the Senate, the question before us is: Will we fulfill our duty to conduct a fair impeachment trial of the president of the United States, or will we not," Schumer said. He also said that McConnell has not provided "one good reason" that the Senate should not hear from public witnesses.

"There is only one precedent that matters. There has never, never in the history of our country been an impeachment trial of a President in which the Senate was denied the ability to hear from witnesses," Schumer said, calling McConnell an "executioner" of a fair trial.

"When you are accused of something you don't suppress evidence would exonerate you," Schumer said, questioning why the administration would not want witnesses to appear before the Senate. He added, scathingly, that if the Senate did not allow impeachment managers to call witnesses, the impeachment trial will be a "nationally televised meeting of the mock trial club."

The Constitution does not delineate how the House should execute its powers of impeachment, saying only that the House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." After impeachment, it falls to the Senate to try the president and vote on whether he should be removed from office.

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