Republican senator says ‘there are virtually no rules’ for impeaching Trump

Lawmaker avoids criticising Mitch McConnell's pledge to 'take cues' from White House in trial

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 29 December 2019 17:32
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Republican senator says 'there are virtually no substantive rules' for impeachment

A Republican senator has said there are “virtually no substantive rules” for impeachment as he avoided criticising Mitch McConnell for pledging to coordinate with Donald Trump in the impending Senate trial.

John Kennedy, a senator for Louisiana, was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if he was “disturbed” by Mr McConnell’s pledge, as Republican senator Lisa Murkowski said she was earlier this week.

He replied by arguing both Mr McConnell and Ms Murkowski are entitled to their opinions because there is a relative lack of precedents for conducting an impeachment trial.

“What you’ll see is that when it comes to impeachment, the rule is there are virtually no substantive rules,” Mr Kennedy said.

“It’s not a criminal trial, the Senate is not really a jury – it’s both jury and judge. The chief justice is not the judge, he’s the presiding officer.”

“There are no standards of proof, there are no rules of evidence and every senator, unless we pass a new rule by 51 votes in the Senate, is entitled to approach it in his own way,” he added.

The senator’s comments come amid concerns over fairness in the impending trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Democrats fear Mr Trump will not face sufficient scrutiny.

Mr McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he will be working closely with the White House during the impeachment trial and will “take [his] cues” from Mr Trump’s lawyers.

His stance has provoked criticism from Ms Murkowski, one of the 53 Republican senators in the chamber.

“We have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defence,” Ms Murkowski said.

“I heard what Leader McConnell had said; I happened to think that that has further confused the process."

Each of the Senate's 100 members will serve as jurors in the trial, once House speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the approved articles of impeachment to the chamber.

Senate rules require members to swear an oath to do “impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” at the start of the trial and a two-thirds majority is required to convict a president and remove them from office.

Mr Kennedy has previously been accused of “peddling Russian propaganda” in TV appearances over his insistence that both Ukraine and Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

The US intelligence community has concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 election but Ukraine did not.

Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser on Russia, recently described accusations of Ukrainian interference as a “fictional narrative … propagated by the Russian security services”.

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