We don’t yet know whether the Senate trial will involve witnesses or whether any are needed. Contrary to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats are demanding, now is not the time to answer that question.
As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday, the Senate should follow the precedent set by the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. On a bipartisan basis, senators agreed to receive briefs, hear opening arguments by the House managers and the president’s lawyers, and then present their questions to the lawyers.
It was only then that the Senate would decide whether it needed to hear testimony from any witnesses. That was the best way to handle this issue for the parties and in the best interests of the nation.
Why? Impeachment is the most serious undertaking by the House of Representatives other than declaring war. For the Senate, there can be no more serious job than determining whether a duly elected president should be removed from office.
Before deciding whether witnesses need to be called, it is up to the House managers to present the evidence gathered by the House that they believe justifies the impeachment resolutions that the House approved.
Only after that happens, and the lawyers for the president have pointed out any problems in the House’s case and both sides have answered senators’ questions, is it appropriate for the Senate to decide whether there are, in fact, witnesses who need to be heard from—or whether the case for impeachment can be decided based on the evidence already presented.
If the House managers fail to prove what looks like an extremely weak case, the president should be acquitted. Now that the House embarked down this road, conducted its investigation and leveled these serious charges, the country deserves a swift, fair resolution of this matter without unnecessary delays.
This piece originally appeared in USA Today