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Leahy Criticizes GOP Senate Leaders Ahead Of Trump Impeachment Trial

Two senators stand near a podium on Capitol Hill.
Susan Walsh
Associated Press File
Sen. Patrick Leahy, right, pictured with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in July on Capitol Hill. Now that the House has passed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a Senate trial is the next step.

Now that the U.S. House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump, a Senate trial is the next step — but Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy says Senate Republicans appear ready to conduct a sham impeachment trial.

After a full day of debate, the U.S. House passed two articles of impeachment Wednesday night. Vermont Rep. Peter Welch voted in favor of both.

"When he [Trump] denounced, denied and defied the clear authority of Congress to investigate his conduct, he repudiated our constitutional system of checks and balances and further violated his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution," Welch said during his floor remarks.

Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he's appalled that Senate GOP leaders — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham — have pledged to coordinate their impeachment hearings with the needs of the White House.

"In all my years here I've never seen any Republican or Democrat say such things," Leahy told VPR, "and for Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham saying they've got to clear whatever they do with the White House just makes a mockery of our Constitution and it demeans the U.S. Senate."

Leahy said a decision by McConnell to work with the White House on trial procedures is like asking a prosecutor to work closely with a jury in a murder trial.

"The American people — whether they're for or against Donald Trump, whether they're for or against what was done — want us at least to be fair, honest and above board," Leahy said. "This is not being fair, honest. and above board."

In a written statement released Wednesday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also singled out McConnell in looking ahead at a Senate trial:

“Today, the House of Representatives rightly carried out its constitutional responsibility by voting to impeach Donald Trump, the most corrupt president in our history. No one, including the president, is above the law. “I call on Mitch McConnell to conduct a full and fair trial to hold this president accountable, and I am fully prepared to uphold my responsibility as a juror in the United States Senate.”

The timing of the Senate trial is uncertain; late Wednesday night House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised the possibility of delaying sending the articles to the Senate, butPelosi said Thursday she did plan to send them once gleaning more information about the trial structure.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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