Editorial: John Bolton makes an impeachment offer Mitch McConnell can’t refuse
On Monday, former national security advisor John Bolton, one of a handful of top White House officials with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions and views regarding Ukraine, announced that he was ready to testify about what he saw and heard. But on Tuesday, the Senate Republican leadership said, in effect, “We’re not interested.”
Instead, GOP leaders announced that they have the votes to begin Trump’s impeachment trial, and they intend to do so without promising that witnesses would be called or documents subpoenaed. Maybe, just maybe, such evidence will be collected later in the process if enough Republicans change their minds after the trial gets underway.
That’s an outrageous dereliction of their constitutional duty. Bolton has made the Senate an offer it cannot refuse — firsthand information about the matter in dispute — and the Senate needs to take him up on it promptly.
The Democratic-controlled House voted Dec. 18 to approve two articles of impeachment against the president, accusing him of abusing the power of his office to undermine a political opponent and obstructing Congress by ordering his administration not to cooperate with House investigators. Since then, the process has been stuck in limbo as top Senate Republicans and Democrats tussled over what rules to adopt for the Senate trial. Democrats pushed to subpoena documents and testimony from potentially crucial witnesses like Bolton that the House had been denied, while Trump’s GOP allies sought a streamlined process that would quickly exonerate the president.
Republicans are in the driver’s seat because the rules for the trial are set by a majority vote, and there are 53 Republicans in the Senate. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he’d lined up at least 51 votes in favor of using the same rules in Trump’s trial as the Senate had used in President Clinton’s impeachment in early 1999. Under those rules, the Senate will hear presentations from the House for and against removing Trump from office before deciding whether to gather any additional evidence — assuming Republicans don’t dismiss the case first, which some of Trump’s staunchest allies have proposed to do.
McConnell argues that these rules were good enough for Democrats in 1999 — the Senate approved them unanimously back then — so they should be good enough now. But that ignores the Trump administration’s blanket obstructionism, a problem Congress did not face in Clinton’s case. And it’s abundantly clear that both Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney can shed more light about what Trump did and why he did it, especially regarding the hold he placed on security aid that Ukraine desperately needed.
McConnell’s approach merely delays the inevitable. The rules he’s proposing will allow Democrats to force votes on whether to call Bolton and other witnesses, and there’s no credible or politically defensible reason not to hear from them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) should transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate and let the trial move forward, so the public can see just how interested their senators are in holding a full and fair trial.
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