Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday that he would leave the question of whether to call witnesses to the House managers to decide. In the meantime, various Democratic senators said that there is no need for witnesses despite the House repeatedly acknowledging that it does not know critical facts related to Donald Trump’s state of mind. The position of Schumer and the Democrats is in strikingly contrast to their positions in the last two impeachments.
Schumer has stated that the question of whether witnesses will be called is up to the House managers: “We let the managers make the decisions and I try to implement them.”
That is not the position taken by Schumer 21 year ago when he and the Democrats opposed hearing from witnesses. They refused to leave it up the House managers. Indeed, they did not want to have a trial at all and demanded dismissal and then opposed calling witnesses despite the demand of House managers. Ultimately, they allowed a few depositions and no live testimony. In the first Trump impeachment, no witnesses were called. Democrats wanted some witnesses but opposed others demanded by the defense. They did not leave the question to the House managers.
What is striking this time is that there was literally no record in the House. None. There was no hearing, no investigation. Just a snap impeachment. As we have discussed, the House could have held days of hearings and still impeached Trump before leaving the White House on January 20th. (A Senate trial before Trump left office was not an option). They refused. Then four weeks passed where they could have called key witnesses to answer myriad of questions, they again refused and decided to go forward without such direct evidence.
At the trial, both the House and the defense highlighted critical questions that have remained unanswered due to the lack of such testimony. Yet, the Democratic senators do not want to hear witnesses anymore than the House. This is not because of prudential objections to the use of a snap impeachment. They have indicated that they do not need such answers to pronounce guilt.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she heard from enough people through “interviews and video presentation.” Of course, she did not hear a single line of sworn testimony because there is no such testimony despite the availability of direct testimony from witnesses who have already given public statements. Yet, she declared “I feel like we’ve heard from enough witnesses.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said “I think the case has been made. I don’t know what witnesses would add.” That may be true since no one has even deposed a witness. This is a case of ignorance being bliss when it comes to a desire for conviction.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tried a different tact and said that the accused has the burden. She said Trump could come and “give his explanation of the day,” but “otherwise, it feels like to me we’re done.”
Of course, the burden is on the House and they presented an entirely circumstantial case on Trump’s state of mind despite a dozen witnesses who could confirm what he said and did in these critical hours. Indeed, the Senate did not even see confirmation on details whether Trump delayed deployment of National Guard or whether the fault of the delay rests equally or more with others, including Congress, on the preparation for and response to the protest and later riot.
The trial therefore will remain circumstantial by design and popular demand.