Cornyn says push for new witnesses shows Democrats "getting cold feet" on impeachment

Cornyn says Democrats "getting cold feet" on impeachment

Washington — House Democrats are "getting cold feet" about their impeachment efforts against President Trump ahead of the start of the trial in the Senate, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Sunday.

The Senate proceedings involving Mr. Trump are set to begin Tuesday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to offer an organizing resolution laying out the rules for the trial. But a crucial question of whether witnesses will be called to testify remains unanswered.

A decision about additional witnesses will be deferred until after the House's impeachment managers and Mr. Trump's legal team lay out their respective cases for why the president should be convicted or acquitted, Cornyn said, adding the push for more officials to be called suggests Democrats may not be fully prepared.

"This seems to undermine or indicate they're getting cold feet or have a lack of confidence in what they've done so far," Cornyn, the majority whip, told "Face the Nation."

Cornyn noted that the House can hear from more witnesses and even vote on more articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to bolster the charges against him, but said it's not the responsibility of the Senate to "make the case."

"If the House isn't prepared to go forward with the evidence they've produced in the impeachment inquiry, maybe they ought to withdraw the articles of impeachment and start over again," he said.

The House delivered the articles of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress to the Senate last week and senators took an oath Thursday vowing to "do impartial justice" in the president's trial.

On Saturday, the House impeachment managers, who will act as prosecutors and lay out the chamber's case against Mr. Trump, submitted a 100-page brief detailing the issues with the president's conduct with Ukraine, which is at the center of the impeachment proceedings.

McConnell's forthcoming organizing resolution will detail the parameters of the trial, but Cornyn said he expects the Senate will spend six hours a day, six days a week sitting as a court of impeachment.

"This is going to be kind of a grueling exercise, but also one that will be public because the American people will be able to see it for themselves, unlike the secret impeachment inquiry conducted by Chairman Schiff in the House," Cornyn said, referencing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat.

Schiff was selected alongside six other Democrats as an impeachment manager. His committee led the House's inquiry into Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

The House has continued to make public more details regarding Mr. Trump's withholding of crucial security aid to Ukraine and efforts to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals.

The lower chamber released last week a trove of documents it received from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, which included a May 2019 letter from Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, to Zelensky.

In the letter, Giuliani requested a private meeting with Zelensky and said he was contacting him with Mr. Trump's "knowledge and consent."

The president, however, said he didn't know about the letter.

Also among the records made public last week were text messages Parnas exchanged with Robert Hyde, a GOP donor and congressional candidate in Connecticut, which seemed to suggest former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was being monitored while serving in Kiev.

Hyde and Parnas, however, said they did not believe she was under surveillance.

Cornyn said Sunday he expects Congress will investigate whether Yovanovitch was being tracked. Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her post last year due to concerns about her safety, she told Congress.