Parties spar over rules for Trump impeachment trial

US House Democrats are a confused lot ahead of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

It is not clear when the trial will start. Two weeks of holiday recess did not help Democrats evolve a strategy to speed up the process.

Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bluntly told the Senate on Friday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have no role in determining the proceeding of the trial.

Pelosi has not even sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate after the Democrats won the impeachment vote in mid-December. The trial cannot be held without the articles, McConnell said.

Pelosi wants clarity on the rules related to witnesses and documents before the articles are sent to the Senate.

She also does not want to discuss the upcoming trial with McConnell. He never exchanged a word on this with McConnell during the two-week recess holiday.  

Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer clashed with McConnell in the Senate on Friday over what he called the Republican leader’s failure to explain why witnesses cannot be called and documents cannot be sought during the trial.

Schumer wants to kill two birds with one stone by moving a resolution in the Senate on clarity over the rules of the trial and a possible deal allowing the calling of witnesses.

McConnell, on the other hand, is planning to move two resolutions — one on rules governing the proceedings of the trial and the other on the relevance of calling witnesses and seeking documents.

According to him, the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton had allowed two resolutions and that rule should be followed in Trump’s trial too.

Democrats cannot call witnesses or stop McConnell from blocking them before a vote on the articles unless   they have the support of three to four Republican Senators.

This seems an impossible task for Democrats unless they can divide the Republicans.