By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The Senate began consideration Tuesday of the rules that will govern the trial of U.S. President Donald Trump, and his possible, if unlikely, removal from office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the draft rules late Monday, stoking the ire of congressional Democrats who say they are tantamount to a "cover up."
McConnell has sought to portray the rules as replicating those that governed the Senate trial of former President Bill Clinton, repeating his claim on the Senate floor ahead of the debate.
"This basic four-part structure aligns with the first steps of the Clinton impeachment trial," he said. "There's no reason other than base partisanship to say this particular president deserves a radically different rulebook than what was good enough for a past president of your own party."
But the package he put forth differs in key ways.
Unlike Clinton’s trial, opening arguments are limited to just two days, with each side having 24 hours to make their case. Clinton’s trial included arguments over four days.
House evidence is also not included automatically as was the case in Clinton’s trial. It can only be admitted following a Senate vote.
Democrats have come out strongly against the proposed ground rules with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying they "seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump."
"Contrary to what the leader has said, the McConnell rules are not at all like the Clinton rules," he later said on the Senate floor. "The Republican leader's resolution is based neither in precedent, nor in principle. It is driven by partisanship and the politics of the moment."
Schumer has promised to call for a series of votes on amendments to the rules package, but he is facing an uphill battle in the Republican-held chamber. Defections that would bring Democrats to the necessary 51 votes needed to pass the amendments seem unlikely so far.
Democrats have been seeking to have House evidence admitted for the trial, and want to have testimony from key individuals who did not participate in the House investigation included in the proceedings, including Trump's former National Security Advisor John Bolton and the president's Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, said he will offer a "series of amendments" to include those measures in the trial's rules, but McConnell said he would quickly table any such effort "because the Senate will decide those questions later in the trial."
Trump was impeached in December by the House of Representatives on two charges: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
The Senate's impeachment trial began Thursday with the reading aloud of the two House of Representatives-passed charges, making Trump the third chief executive in U.S. history to face Senate proceedings.
The two articles of impeachment against Trump -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- related to his repeated effort to have Ukraine declare criminal investigations into leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his subsequent refusal to cooperate with the House's investigation of the matter and his directive that top officials do the same.
Neither of the previous two presidents who face Senate trials, Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, were removed from office as a result of the proceedings.