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Barrasso: Senate GOP can ‘absolutely’ remain impartial while coordinating with White House

As the impeachment trial of President Trump opens, questions persist about how it will be run. In particular, Democrats and Republicans have argued over whether or not to include witness testimony. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., joins Lisa Desjardins to discuss how he and his GOP colleagues can be impartial while coordinating with the White House and why he supports postponing the witness question.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Returning to our top story, impeachment, the Senate will begin looking at the House's case against the president this week. But questions still remain about what that trial will look like.

    Lisa Desjardins is back with more details.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have been arguing over whether or not their impeachment trial will include testimony from new witnesses.

    To help us understand how they're preparing for the trial, we will hear from senators from both Republican and Democratic leadership roles.

    First, I'm joined by Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming.

    Senator, thank you for joining us here on "NewsHour."

    Can you take us inside Republican leadership? All of you will take an oath to be impartial. At the same time, you are coordinating with the White House.

    Can you explain how you balance those two things? Can you be impartial if you're coordinating with the White House?

  • Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.:

    Well, absolutely, because we want to use the same procedure that was used in 1999 when Bill Clinton went through impeachment, which means you come to the Senate.

    We will all take an oath, and then in the Senate, the managers from the House will present their case. And then the defense from the White House will present its defense. Then there will be time for all of the senators through the chief justice of the Supreme Court to ask questions of both of those sides.

    Only at that time will we decide whether we want witnesses or not. One big difference between 1999 and now is, we are not going to ask for a summary judgment for a removal immediately of the rules and getting rid of the entire process.

    Instead, we're going to say, let's discuss and decide on witnesses.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Senator, why not make that decision now about witnesses? Why not call some witnesses to have more information about something as important as the fate of the U.S. president?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, the House could have called all the witnesses they wanted.

    Nancy Pelosi kept using the word urgency. They made their own choice. As Nancy Pelosi kept using the word urgency, they had to get this passed because it was so urgent. And then, after they got it passed, she waited a full four weeks to send it to the Senate, which, as you know, the American people overwhelmingly then said, this was a political stunt.

    They have also said only one out of three Americans believe that what the House did was a fair process. I think we're not going to know whether we need witnesses or not until we hear the House managers' case, until we hear the defense from the White House.

    And then we can make a decision not just on whether witnesses are needed, but on who those witnesses should be.

    So that's a decision to be made after we have asked our own questions of the — of both sides.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This trial, of course, determine if President Trump should be removed from office.

    But there is another debate that this has touched on as well, whether what the president did was wrong.

    You sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Was this president wrong to ask another foreign leader to investigate a political opponent?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Some people put that in terms of investigating a political opponent. I view it as a president looking to see if there was corruption.

    And we know Ukraine has been full of corruption over the years, so that before the president would send U.S. assets, U.S. money to Ukraine, he wanted to make sure that the corruption issue was removed.

    That, to me, is what this issue is all about. But there can be things that really the question is, what's the improper and what is impeachable? No law has been broken. They don't even suggest that a law has been broken. They're talking about obstruction of Congress, abuse of power.

    Those are the articles that the House has voted to send to the Senate. And now it's time for the Senate to hear the arguments and then judge, based on those articles which the House has brought forward.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Senator, you know the calendar well.

    Let me ask you quickly. President Trump said he thanks this trial can be completed in two weeks. Do you think that's true?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, we're going to see if we — after we hear what the House managers say, have to hear what the defense has to say, after we have had our questions answered, if there are enough senators who say, I have heard enough, I'm ready to make a final decision today, then we could move to a final decision.

    If more senators than that, if a majority say, no, I want to hear from witnesses, then it will extend beyond two weeks,

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, thank you.

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Thank you.

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