Durbin urges McConnell to work with Schumer to ensure "proper" impeachment trial

Durbin: Trump would want to call witnesses in trial if they "would exonerate him"

Washington — Democratic Senator Dick Durbin urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to ensure an impeachment trial in the Senate is conducted in the "proper way."

"Let's have Senator McConnell sit down with Senator Schumer ... and start this proceeding in the proper bipartisan way. That hasn't happened yet. I don't know what Senator McConnell is waiting for," Durbin said Sunday on "Face the Nation," noting that during impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott worked closely with Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

"We may interfere with some tee times here, but we ought to really stand up for the demeanor, the history and the traditions of the Senate in terms of doing this in the proper way," said Durbin, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of justice — against President Trump in a straight party-line vote. The full House will vote on the articles this week.

If the House votes to impeach him, Mr. Trump would stand trial in the Senate once lawmakers return to Washington in the new year. Republicans control the upper chamber and are widely expected to acquit him. 

McConnell told Fox News in an interview last week he is "coordinating with White House counsel" on the Senate's impeachment trial, and that "there will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this." 

Durbin, however, urged McConnell to sit down with Schumer and stressed that "the Senate is on trial" in addition to the president.

"We have a constitutional responsibility," he said.

The specific details of the trial, such as how long it will last and whether the president's lawyers will call any witnesses to testify, remain unclear. Motions to call witnesses or introduce evidence in a Senate trial require a simple majority, meaning 51 Republicans can effectively control the proceedings. Durbin said he would expect Mr. Trump to support calling witnesses if they could clear him of wrongdoing. 

"It appears to be there are no witnesses the president would want to call to exonerate himself," the Illinois Democrat said. "Maybe such a witness doesn't exist, I don't know."

Durbin added that the president has blocked witnesses from testifying before the House in their impeachment proceedings and has refused to hand over documents, but said that if the proceedings in the Senate are a "true trial," there should be evidence presented.

"Those are things we can work out once we have a spirit that this is a constitutional responsibility that really is a reflection on who we are as United States senators," Durbin said.