VIDEO - Coons on impeachment: “[W]hat I think the American people deserve, our history deserves…is a fair and a real and an open trial in the Senate of these grave charges against President Trump.”
Sen. Chris Coons of the Senate Judiciary Committee joined MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last night to discuss the House vote to impeach President Trump and the likely Senate trial.
“If this is the President’s response, if this is his defense, I’ve got to tell you it is unhinged. It is something that belongs not on White House stationery and letterhead but more on the ravings of a conspiracy blog or on Russian state television,” said Coons.
From the interview:
Q: What was it like watching this unfold tonight?
It is striking to be here, to be in the Capitol as history is unfolding in front of us. I do want to start by commending Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi. I think they have – after the remarkable events that led to the whistleblower’s complaint – launched an impeachment inquiry that was disciplined and thorough, that delivered documents and witnesses, that ultimately built a compelling case against President Trump.
President Trump absolutely stonewalled their efforts, directed his closest advisers and cabinet officials not to testify, not to respond to subpoenas, and that’s what produced the second article tonight, the obstruction of Congress.
But the core charge that President Trump abused the power of his office to dangle badly needed military aid before an ally that’s in real trouble from Russian military aggression, in order to dig up dirt on his most likely political opponent in the 2020 presidential election – that largely remains unresponded to in the House.
And now that this shifts to the Senate, what I think the American people deserve, our history deserves, the world deserves is a fair and a real and an open trial in the Senate of these grave charges against President Trump.
Q: Do you actually think you might get a fair trial?
We certainly have a fairly divided and partisan Senate at the moment. We spent virtually the entire day in roll call votes on judicial confirmations rather than doing more substantive work.
As you know, the House has sent over bill after bill that would deal with all sorts of important issues – whether it’s climate change or the opioid crisis, gun violence in schools or prescription drug prices.
And Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, is proud of being the leader that presides over a legislative graveyard where we’re not taking up and considering those bills. His responsibility now is to negotiate with Leader Schumer a set of rules, an approach towards the witnesses and the documents that would be part of any trial that gives us a real shot at a fair and a reasonable trial.
As you referenced, even during the bitter and divided period in which President Clinton was impeached, there was a vote, ultimately a vote of 100-0, adopting the rules and approach that was worked out between the majority and the minority leaders. So, there is precedent for that as Michael Beschloss just said a few minutes ago.
The Constitution entrusts to the Senate the trial of a president who’s been impeached by the House but doesn’t provide the rules for it. So what we look for, I think, is the expectations that the average American citizen has about what a trial looks like based on our experiences with trials in our courts.
There are fact witnesses that are directly relevant to the charge. There are documents directly relevant to the charge, and here it is the President’s own obstruction, his direction to his folks to refuse to deliver those documents or that testimony that is the second article of impeachment.
I’ll remind you, President Clinton and President Nixon directed their own close advisers and cabinet officials to testify, to cooperate with impeachment inquiries. That’s a piece of what makes this so unprecedented.