Sen. Chris Murphy accuses Mitch McConnell of trying to ‘rig’ Senate impeachment trial in Trump’s favor

Hartford Courant

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy ripped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, saying it’s shocking that McConnell intends to be coordinating the upcoming impeachment trial with President Donald Trump’s lawyers.

“I think it’s stunning that Mitch McConnell is openly advertising he’s coordinating with the White House to rig the trial in Trump’s favor,” Murphy told reporters at the state Capitol complex. “If Mitch McConnell doesn’t believe what the president did is impeachable, that’s up to him. But for him to be crowing on national television that he’s going to be coordinating every step of this trial with Donald Trump, I think, is an abdication of his responsibility."

Murphy, a Democrat, was referring to recent statements made by McConnell in which he bluntly stated that he would consult with Trump’s lawyers before the trial is expected to begin in early January. The House is expected to approve two articles of impeachment Wednesday that passed in the House Judiciary Committee last week along party lines. All five Democratic members of Connecticut’s U.S. House delegation say they will vote to impeach Trump.

“He’s not the RNC chairman,” Murphy said of McConnell. “He’s the majority leader of the United States Senate — and he’s supposed to be running a fair trial that not only gives the president a chance to make his case but also gives the House impeachment managers the opportunity to make their case.”

Murphy said he has spoken to several Republican senators “who are very concerned with the president’s conduct" as the trial approaches. He would not name them publicly because he said the conversations were private. McConnell has predicted that no Republican senators would vote in favor of impeachment.

“I admit it’s unlikely there is going to be a large number of Republicans voting for impeachment, but I don’t think we should assume from the outset that none of them will take a fair look at the facts,” Murphy said.

Connecticut state Republican Chairman J.R. Romano had a strongly different view, saying Democrats have put forward a weak case for Trump’s impeachment.

“This has been a sham from the beginning,” Romano said Monday. “They have no evidence. They have nothing. ... It’s an embarrassment how the Democrats have completely ignored standard operating procedure. They have members of Congress leaving their party. They’re grasping and simply putting on a spectacle."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said he agrees with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that four key witnesses, including Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton should be called to appear at the trial. They did not participate in the impeachment proceedings in the House.

“If I were the prosecutor here, and I was a prosecutor for quite a few years, I could rest my case, based on the evidence we have now — the president’s own words, plus powerful, moving testimony from dedicated career professionals whose credibility has never been questioned,” Blumenthal said in an interview Monday. “If the president has evidence that shows his innocence, I have a duty to hear it, and I will. So far, he has blocked 12 witnesses who have been asked to appear [in the House inquiry] and every single document that has been requested. He has provided not a single document.”

He said he hopes Senate Republicans will not "rig a sham reality show'' that would “in effect, do the White House’s bidding.”

The nation, as well as Congress, has been split over impeachment. For months, lawmakers have predicted that Trump would be impeached by the Democratic-controlled House but not convicted in the Republican-controlled Senate.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released Monday showed that 45% of respondents believe that Trump “should be impeached and removed from office,” compared to 51% who oppose impeachment. Those results are the same as one week ago. At the same time, Trump reached a tie for his best job approval ratings since taking office, at 43%.

A Fox News poll Sunday said 50% of those polled want Trump impeached and removed from office while 41% said he should not be impeached.

Trump blasted the Fox News poll in a message on Twitter, saying, “The @foxnewsPolls, always inaccurate, are heavily weighted toward Dems. So ridiculous — same thing happened in 2016. They got it all wrong. Get a new pollster!”