Experts Analyze McConnell’s Role in the Impeachment Trial

Senator Mitch McConnell is the man in the spotlight as the architect of the Senate impeachment rules. But who exactly is McConnell, and what has been his political journey? Christiane speaks with Scott Jennings, a longtime advisor to McConnell, and investigative reporter Alec MacGillis.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Your guy is the man of the moment and by your guy, I obviously mean, Mitch McConnell. Scott, you worked for him? Alec, you’ve written the book on him. You know, he’s getting a lot of publicity now for somebody who is pretty taciturn. I guess, I want to know how you foresee his performance and how it will be described at the end of this because, you know, it’s very contentious. Scott, you first?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he is doing a few things that are consistent with his worldview about the Senate and the nature of politics. Number one, he, I think, is trying to protect the institution from setting precedents that they may regret in the future. I think you’ve seen that in some of his tactical moves. And number two, he strongly believes that politics is a team sport. And that’s why he’s strived, I think, over the last several days to maintain as much party unity as possible when it came to setting up the rules and moving forward with the trial. So to me, I think that’s what he is going to be remembered for here. It is trying to keep his people together and trying to stop the Senate from setting precedents that could come back to haunt the institution in the future.

AMANPOUR: Alec MacGillis, does that resonate with you? What kind of precedents do you think he is trying to stop and will somebody who has so clearly hitched his wagon to the President obviously of his own party actually be remembered in terms of an impartial jury and setting up an impartial system here?

ALEC MACGILLIS, AUTHOR: Yes, I would see it quite differently. Actually, I think what you’re seeing is actually, Senator McConnell’s willingness, as we’ve seen before, to really upend and undermine a lot of the norms and precedents and traditions of the Senate, even as he manages somehow to still be seen as an institutionalist, as a guardian of the institution. He’s in fact willing to push things very far to achieve his political ends; in this case, protecting the President. But more broadly, I think what you’re really going to see coming out of this trial is just how closely Senator McConnell has — will have linked himself to Donald Trump. He played a huge role in Trump’s election in 2016, I think a larger role than many of us really acknowledge and now will be even more closely yoked in history and in his legacy to this President.

About This Episode EXPAND

Scott Jennings and Alec MacGillis analyze Senator Mitch McConnell’s political journey and imprint on the United States. “Shawshank Redemption” actor Tim Robbins tells Christiane about his career and most recent play “The New Colossus.” Four-time Grammy Award-winning musician Esperanza Spalding tells Walter Isaacson about her newest solo album “12 Little Spells.”