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Senate Republicans To Move Forward With Impeachment Trial Without Democratic Support


And now to a different story. Senate negotiations for an impeachment trial had been at a stalemate. Democrats wanted assurances that new witnesses would be allowed. Now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to start the trial without an agreement on witnesses, similar to the proceedings in President Clinton's impeachment trial. And today, McConnell said he has enough votes to approve parameters for President Trump's trial without Democrats.


MITCH MCCONNELL: All we're doing here is saying we're going to get started in exactly the same way that a hundred senators agreed to 20 years ago. What's good for President Clinton is good for President Trump.

SHAPIRO: Well, tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing back. And to explain, NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins us from Capitol Hill.

Hi, Claudia.


SHAPIRO: McConnell says he has the votes that he needs to move forward without Democrats - sounds like this is going to be a highly partisan process in the Senate, just as it was in the House. But now Republicans are in control instead of Democrats.

GRISALES: Exactly. The Senate could start with what looks like a party-line vote on what the rules will be. This continues this trend from the House where that process was supported by Democrats. Now, in the Senate, they'll move forward on a Republican-only resolution. The way the Senate rules work, a resolution sets the parameters for a trial. And it only needs a simple majority, or 51 votes. And with 53 Republican senators in that chamber, they say they have the support they need.

SHAPIRO: How would a trial work under the rules of the resolution that McConnell is writing?

GRISALES: The opening phase will largely mimic what we saw with the Clinton impeachment trial, which, as it happens, started 21 years ago today in 1999. McConnell said this first phase will include arguments for the prosecution team and the president's defense team, as well as written questions from the senators. And a reminder that in the Senate trial, members aren't allowed to talk, so we'll be hearing from the lawyers for those prosecution and defense teams. And we won't know more about the next steps until we move through this initial phase.

SHAPIRO: A couple of Republican senators said they did want to hear from witnesses - Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Where are they on these developments?

GRISALES: Yes, they mentioned this over the holiday recess. And McConnell said there will be an opportunity to discuss that interest of witnesses, but after phase one. You would need a simple majority, so Democrats would need four Republican senators to vote with them to call for witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, who, this week, happened to volunteer that he would be willing to testify before the Senate. But on the other hand, it's unlikely that Democrats are going to join Republicans and support Trump's calls for witnesses, like former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter, to testify.

SHAPIRO: We've been talking about the Senate, but in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been hanging on to these articles of impeachment against President Trump. And I understand there's some developments there tonight. Tell us what's happening.

GRISALES: Yeah, we did get an update this evening from the speaker. She released a letter that she shared with her caucus that McConnell must, quote, "immediately" print this proposed resolution before anything new happens in this standoff. So it's a sign that the stalemate isn't over yet.

Earlier today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seemed to open the door on the idea that Pelosi would eventually send these articles over. Let's take a listen.


CHUCK SCHUMER: So now we have a greater feel for where we're headed. And Speaker Pelosi - I have a great faith in the decision that she will make, but she's accomplished a great deal already.

GRISALES: Pelosi has made clear that she was withholding these articles until she had more information what kind of trial the Senate will conduct. Schumer said she's bought time to raise pressure on Republicans to call witnesses and allow for more evidence to surface. But this letter tonight is another reminder that this standoff isn't over yet, and the clock to an impeachment trial in the Senate is still ticking away.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales with the latest developments on the impeachment of President Trump. And as the night unfolds, we will continue following news of the Iranian retaliatory attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Claudia, thank you very much.

GRISALES: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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