KEY POINTS

  • Democrats worry Senate Republicans will greatly restrict the Trump impeachment trial
  • Initially, House Democrats had emphasized need to go forward with impeachment
  • Senate Republicans indicate they will forbid witness testimonies, videos

Democrats introduced two articles of impeachment Tuesday aimed at removing President Donald Trump from the White House. When they were announced, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) emphasized the need to push forward with impeachment without delays.

But now Democrats are worried that a hasty process they once desired may work against them.

Senate Republicans and Trump himself have expressed, since the announcement, an interest in going ahead with the impeachment process as quickly as possible. Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), are now hesitant to permit this until Republicans agree to certain rules regarding the way the impeachment trial is handled by the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently stated his intent to form a coalition to not only refuse to decline to convict Trump but to acquit him – a subtle but important distinction, as acquittal by the Senate would make it difficult for Democrats to file articles of impeachment again.

An unnamed Democratic senator told The Hill that “If we don’t agree on a set of rules before the articles arrive over here, I think we’re cooked.”

It is looking increasingly likely that McConnell will seek a Senate resolution severely restricting the scope of the Senate impeachment trial, including barring witness testimony. “They’ll pass whatever rules they want, and so we need to determine for a fair trial what witnesses we want, what documents we want. Are we going to allow videos? Are you going to allow boards that go up with votes so you explain things to the audience that is watching out there in a really powerful way?” said the Democratic senator.

Although it is a virtually foregone conclusion that the Senate, with its Republican majority, will decline to remove Trump from the White House, the optics of the proceedings will lay the groundwork for possible future moves by Democrats on impeachment.

As several Democrats on the Hill have stated this week, even if this push for impeachment fails, it won’t be the end. Democrats in Congress have already expressed their interest in pursuing other means of impeachment – even if this one doesn’t succeed.

There are indications that if Trump survives impeachment and gets re-elected next year, congressional Republicans who opposed his removal might suffer in 2020. If this should be the case, Democrats may find themselves not only with a House majority, but also a Senate majority – meaning a renewed attempt at impeachment could very well succeed.

Democrats are beginning to realize this and see that regardless of how the impeachment trial plays out in the Senate, it is important to make a strong case to the American public for Trump’s removal.

mcconnell Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell, R-Ky., says Congress could block moves to normalize relations with Cuba. Pictured: McConnell talks to reporters July 8, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque