Every single impeachment trial held in the Senate has heard testimony from witnesses up to this point.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he doesn't want witnesses to testify in Donald Trump's impeachment trial, arguing that it would be akin to reopening the investigation and saying it proved Democrats' case for impeachment is "weak." History, however, would argue otherwise.
"If the existing case is strong, there's no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation," McConnell said Tuesday in a speech on the Senate floor. "If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached."
There have been 19 impeachments and 15 impeachment trials in American history, two of which were for presidents and the rest for federal judges — who can only be removed from their lifetime appointments via impeachment — a senator and a Cabinet secretary. Every single one of the trials conducted by the Senate has heard testimony from witnesses, including the two presidents who were impeached — Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton.
The Senate trial in Jackson's impeachment in 1868 featured testimony from dozens of witnesses — 25 that the prosecution called and 16 that the defense called, according to the Senate Historical Office.
Clinton's impeachment trial featured three witnesses, all of whom testified in closed-door depositions that were taped and later played on the Senate floor.
During Clinton's impeachment, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — who was a House member at the time and an impeachment manager against Clinton — made the case about why calling witnesses was so important.
"The whole point that we're trying to make is that in every trial that there's ever been in the Senate regarding impeachment, witnesses were called. So what I'm saying about witnesses is, that if you take them off the table in the Senate, the next Judiciary Committee, the next independent counsel ought to do everything because they may lose the chance to present the case," Graham said back in 1998. "That would be bad for impeachment law, that would be against precedent and I hope that doesn't happen here."
Like McConnell, Graham does not want to have witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, completely reversing his stance now that a Republican is being impeached rather than a Democrat like Clinton.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Republicans for trying to block witnesses.
"A fair trial is one that considers all the facts and gives the senators all the information they need to make an informed decision," Schumer said in a Senate floor speech. "That means relevant witnesses. That means relevant documents. That means the truth. Without these things, a Senate trial would become a farce — a nationally televised meeting of the mock trial club."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.