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'We Must Have A Full And Honest Trial': Sen. Leahy On First Day Of Senate Impeachment Hearings

Sen. Patrick Leahy walks down a hallway.
J. Scott Applewhite
Associated Press
Sen. Patrick Leahy arrives at the Senate for the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.

On the first day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Vermont Edition spoke with Sen. Patrick Leahy for his take on the trial, and a sense of the Senate on the historic day.

The Senator dialed into to the program by phone, rather than through the Senate's dedicated recording facilities, due to heightened security in the Capitol. 

"Today [getting into the recording studio] would have been nearly impossible," Leahy said. "The security is very, very heavy."

"I've never seen it like this" during a routine, regular day without a special occasion or presidential visit, Leahy said. "It is somewhat sobering."

Sen. Leahy told Vermont Edition he reviewed his notes from "from the last trial" — by which he meant the 1998 impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton — to remind himself both of the process and the challenges of an impeachment hearing in the Senate.

"I took one hundred and thirty-some-odd pages of handwritten notes," Leahy recalled, "[and] dictated another 20 or 30." 

Comparing those notes to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined for this impeachment trial has been "frustrating," Leahy says.

During Clinton's impeachment, Leahy recalled a spirit of cooperation as if "the Senate were on trial, too."

Now Leahy is accusing McConnell of shifting the proceedings into a more partisan effort. 

Leahy said he'll look to his Clinton impeachment notes for guidance on what kind of evidence the Senate should hear. But he's also looking to a recent federal watchdog report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office that found Trump broke the law when he froze assistance funds for Ukraine last year.

Calling for testimony from Trump's acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and others before the Senate, Leahy said some of his Republican colleagues have told him privately they would like to hear from these witnesses too.

"If we you have a clear, honest and full trial," Leahy said, "then every American can make up their mind."

"I think we must have a full and honest trial," he concluded.

Listen to the full interview above to hear Sen. Leahy's thoughts on the first day of the Senate impeachment trial.

Broadcast live on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at 11 a.m.; rebroadcast at 8 p.m.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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