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Politics Mitch McConnell vowed 'total coordination' on impeachment. Here's how he kept his promise

22:16  05 february  2020
22:16  05 february  2020 Source:   courier-journal.com

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President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shared a moment during the State of the Union address.

Just shy of the one-hour mark in Trump's speech on Tuesday evening, the president gave a shoutout to the Kentucky Republican: "Working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate, we have confirmed a record number of 187 new federal judges to uphold our Constitution as written.”

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Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.© Drew Angerer/Getty Images President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Thank you, Mitch," Trump added.

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McConnell, who is typically stoic, cracked a toothless grin and waved as Trump paused for cheers.

Though Trump was singling out McConnell's ushering of federal judge confirmations, the president should have another reason to thank the majority leader on Wednesday.

The Senate will likely vote at 4 p.m. to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. This vote, to strike down the House of Representatives' two articles of impeachment, comes in no small part due to McConnell's Senate maneuvering.

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Here's how it unfolded:

Background: McConnell, Paul and other Kentucky legislators react to Trump's State of the Union address

You may also like: McConnell has received campaign donations from Trump's impeachment defense team

'Total coordination' with White House

Five days before the House even approved the articles of impeachment on Dec. 18, McConnell took to television to say he would be in "total coordination with the White House counsel" as the impeachment process moved forward.

During an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, McConnell said that "everything" he does "during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this, to the extent that we can."

McConnell stayed true to his word. The day before the House passed the articles of impeachment, the Senate leader planted the seeds for an argument he would continue making: Democrats led a "slapdash" and unfair investigation, and Trump should not be impeached in the first place.

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From December: McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House for impeachment trial

The Kentucky Republican said "I'm not an impartial juror" that same day when discussing the looming impeachment trial, adding that it is "a political process."

And from the moment the House passed the articles of impeachment, McConnell played hardball with his lower chamber counterpart, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, D-Calif., initially held on to the impeachment articles, saying she wanted to hear more about how McConnell would conduct the trial. The Senate leader was not phased by Pelosi's threat, saying he was "not anxious to have this trial."

No witnesses — even after Bolton revelations

At the heart of the impasse between the two leaders was the calling of additional witnesses. Pelosi wanted an agreement that would arrange for specific witnesses to testify, whereas McConnell insisted that no decision would be made on witnesses until after opening statements from House managers and White House defense lawyers as well as the submission of written questions from senators.

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Pelosi blinked first and sent the articles to the Senate on Jan. 15. The following day, almost a month after saying he was not an impartial juror, McConnell and his Senate colleagues each took the following oath that is stated in the chamber's rules on impeachment:

"I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God."

The week following the oath, McConnell passed rules that delayed the witness vote despite some protests from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and minor tweaks to the leader's original guidelines.

As the witness vote approached in the second week of the trial, the proverbial storm hit. The New York Times reported on Jan. 26 that former national security adviser John Bolton says in his upcoming book that Trump told him he did not want to release military aid to Ukraine until that country helped with investigations that could damage Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

Bolton was already on the Democrats' list of desired witnesses — and the pressure cranked up on McConnell, who "did not have any advance notice" that the National Security Council reportedly had a copy of Bolton's manuscript for weeks, according to a spokesperson.

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Democrats needed four GOP defectors from the 53-member Republican caucus to call witnesses. After the Bolton revelations, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, of Utah and Maine, respectively, indicated they would listen to 75% of Americans and vote to subpoena additional witnesses.

Two days after the Times report, on Jan. 28, McConnell told his Republican caucus in a private meeting that he did not yet have the votes to block witnesses. But just as it looked like McConnell's house of cards could fall, the master strategist reigned in the troops.

On Jan. 29, McConnell held a private meeting with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a potential GOP swing vote from Alaska who had previously criticized McConnell for his "total coordination" comments.

Two days later, on Jan. 31, Murkowski announced she was a "no" vote on calling additional witnesses. Later that afternoon, the Senate voted 51-49 to strike down the measure — all but guaranteeing Trump's acquittal.

Mission accomplished: Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul vote to block additional witnesses in impeachment trial

'Reject the House's abuse of power'

On Tuesday, McConnell made some of his final remarks of the impeachment trial: A plea to his colleagues to acquit Trump and "reject the House's abuse of power."

"We have done our duty," McConnell said Tuesday. "We have considered all arguments. We have studied the 'mountain of evidence.' And tomorrow, we will vote."

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"We must vote to reject the House’s abuse of power. Vote to protect our institutions. Vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the Framers’ design to rubble," he continued.

McConnell concluded by urging his colleagues to "cast the vote that the facts in evidence, the Constitution and the common good clearly require: Vote to acquit the president of these charges."

In his own words: Here's everything McConnell said on the Senate floor during the Trump impeachment trial

As senators continue to announce their votes to acquit or convict Trump, it seems McConnell will get his wish — finishing the trial with the ultimate victory.

Contact Ben Tobin at bjtobin@gannett.com and 502-582-4181 or follow on Twitter @TobinBen. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: subscribe.courier-journal.com.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Mitch McConnell vowed 'total coordination' on impeachment. Here's how he kept his promise

McConnell says secretary for the majority to retire from Senate .
Senate Secretary for the Majority Laura Dove will retire from her post at the end of the month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday. © Greg Nash McConnell says secretary for the majority to retire from Senate Dove was elected secretary for the minority in 2013 and then secretary for the majority in 2015. McConnell lauded Dove, describing her as one of his "closest advisers." "Every Republican Senator has counted on Laura to listen to our goals and concerns and help translate them into action on the Senate floor," McConnell said."She is a keen strategist who always thinks several steps ahead.

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