In a candid admission that Democrats seized on, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared Tuesday that he would not be impartial in any Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.
McConnell had already made headlines by announcing he would coordinate the expected trial of the president with the White House. The Senate hears impeachment trials, and senators act as jurors.
Generally, jurors are required to be impartial. But McConnell, who was asked how Americans should feel about his ability to be impartial after his announced coordination, declared that revered standard is out the window for this impeachment proceeding.
"I am not an impartial juror," McConnell told reporters. "This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it."
However, the Constitution explicitly charges the Senate with trying impeachments, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding. McConnell had repeatedly called the process a trial earlier in the day on the Senate floor.
Nevertheless, McConnell described it all as political.
"Impeachment is a political decision," he said. "The House made the partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate that we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about this at all."
Democrats, who have been defending themselves against charges of unfairness in the House proceedings, immediately highlighted McConnell's admission.
"I am utterly amazed what Mitch McConnell said," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters shortly after McConnell spoke.
"Mitch McConnell said proudly he is not an impartial juror," Schumer said. "Do the American people want Mitch McConnell not to be an impartial juror in this situation? And I would ask every one of my Republican Senate colleagues are you impartial jurors, or are you like Mitch McConnell, proud not to be one?"
The back and forth came as the House was preparing to vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump on Wednesday, alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Schumer has been pushing for several witnesses to testify in the Senate who did not offering testimony in the House, including Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and deposed National Security Adviser John Bolton.
McConnell has not closed down the possibility, but he has so far refused to make the calling witnesses part of the proceedings from the outset as part of the rules the Senate will set for the trial.