Michigan Senators Call For Witnesses In Senate Impeachment Trial

Jan 21, 2020

You can follow special coverage of the Senate impeachment trial on WKAR, here.

Both of Michigan’s Democratic Senators will have new jobs Tuesday. In addition to representing the people of Michigan, they’ll serve as jurors in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

For the third time in United States history Senators will deliberate whether or not to remove the president from office.

The trial begins after the House of Representatives voted along party lines to impeach President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of congress following a phone call between Trump and the President of Ukraine culminating in aid being withheld to the country after congress had consented to the assistance.

The Senate will pass a resolution agreeing upon the terms of the trial and hear opening arguments Tuesday.

Michigan’s senior Democrat, Debbie Stabenow, described the day as solemn on Monday at a Martin Luther King luncheon in Lansing.

"Somber" and "Solemn," Democrats Approach Trial

“I can say for me, when this process started last week, hearing the words, impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, I felt literally a wave of somberness come over me,” said Stabenow. 

Her counterpart Senator Gary Peters mirrored the tone of other Democrats calling the day, “a very serious, very somber event that is embedded in the constitution.”

Both Senators will be subject to the arduous impeachment trial schedule beginning Tuesday, reserving mornings for legislative business, then each day at 1 p.m. the trial will resume.

Timing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a resolution Tuesday initially proposing the House Impeachment managers and White House would have 24 hours to present their arguments, split over two 12-hour days. Then, Senators would have 16 hours to submit written questions to both sides.

Shortly after some Republican Senators expressed concern at the schedule, the resolution was modified to be split over three 16-hour days with more allowances for admitting evidence from the House Inquiry into Senate record.

When asked about timing Monday, Stabenow said she has no preference.  “The question is, ‘Is it fair? Are we living up to our responsibility? Are we working under the rule of law and the Constitution?’ And, as long as it's fair-- it to me it's not about the length of time.”

Democrats Want Witnesses

The eve of the trial both Michigan Senators urged their Republican colleagues to join them and vote to allow witnesses. Senator Peters said, it’s just like any other court room in America,, so the same standards should apply. 

“If I were on trial and accused of something I didn’t do, and I have witnesses that can corroborate that and testify to the fact that I am innocent, I would want them on the stand. I would think you’d have to ask the question, ‘If somebody doesn’t want a witness to come forward…why don’t they want a witness to come forward?’”

Senator Debbie Stabenow implored the trial won’t be fair without witnesses.

“We're walking into a situation where the leader of the jury, Senator McConnell has said he's going to work with the defendant and not allow relevant witnesses, documents, emails, and so… which makes no sense. You'd never have a trial without witnesses,” said Stabenow referring to an early December appearance of McConnell on Fox News where he said he was in “total coordination” with the White House.

The Trump administration blocked senior officials from testifying in the House impeachment hearings, something Senate Democrats are anxious to reverse.

They'll  need 51 votes to call witnesses in the trial—meaning they need four republicans to vote with them, relying on a few Republican swing votes including: Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

Peters said he’s optimistic that his colleagues can be swayed, “I hope that everybody is keeping an open mind. I'm also not naive about this, that people may be unwilling to do that.”

Stabenow and Peters, along with their delegation, are hoping to hear from senior administration officials like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton—who were barred from the House proceedings.

“The witnesses that need to be there are the folks that were in the room for the phone call, the folks that withheld the money at the President’s direction—people who can actually say what happened,” said Stabenow.

The Cost Of A Long Trial

Senators will be expected to remain in Washington six days a week until the trial is over, which could complicate things for Peters—who’s running to keep his seat as Michigan’s junior senator in 2020.

When asked if he thought a long trial would hurt him, by limiting his time to be in the state campaigning and talking with voters, Peters said:

“I think it’s also important that as we’re doing this, in the morning, we are not in trial. At least, we don’t think so. We’ll have to wait to see the rules as they come forward. But we need to continue to deal with issues that are important to the people of Michigan. I’m going to continue to move on legislation that I’ve authored.”