Chris Hayes Surprised to Learn Dems Only Need 3 GOP Senators to Get Trump Impeachment Witnesses


Wonky MSNBC host Chris Hayes was surprised when a guest informed him that only three Republican senators need to side with Democrats in order to compel witness testimony at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, not four.

On Wednesday night’s edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger joined host Chris Hayes to discuss the impending Senate impeachment trial of one Donald J. Trump, and broke a bit of apparently welcome news to Hayes.

Hayes asked Dellinger about Marco Rubio’s claim that the Senate should not seek new evidence, but merely review the record submitted by the House of Representatives, acting essentially as an appellate court.

“That position makes no sense,” Dellinger said, adding that “The House’s impeachment is the bringing of a charge, like a grand jury bringing an indictment. The prosecutors often present just enough evidence to the grand jury in order to sustain an indictment, but the real trial comes with the evidence that’s before the Senate. And history belies that as well.”

Dellinger also said that according to the U.S. Constitution, “The Senate is to try all cases of impeachment, and its own permanent rules which are in place unless they set aside by a vote of 2/3 of the Senate, the rules contemplate that there will be testimony in the Senate, and that they will hear live witnesses.”

He went on to point out that under those rules, Democrats don’t need four Republican defections in order to compel testimony.

“Now when it comes over [from the House], one common misimpression is that it takes four Republicans to join with the Democrats,” Dellinger said, adding “It only takes three to produce a 50-50 tie on whether to block or hear a particular witness summoned by the House managers, with the tie to be broken by Chief Justice Roberts.”

“He’s a process guy, he’ll want to hear the witnesses,” he added.

“Oh, that’s interesting, I thought it was the vice president, but because it’s in the context of a trial the tie-breaking vote goes to the presiding justice,” Hayes said.

“The vice president has nothing to do with it,” Dellinger said.

“I learned something new,” a smiling Hayes said.

Ordinarily, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote on any 50-50 vote in the Senate. But under the standing rules of the Senate for impeachment trials, Chief Justice John Roberts would rule on any tied procedural votes, including those to call witnesses and compel other evidence. Dellinger’s premise relies on the notion that Roberts would err on the side of a fuller trial in such instances.

Democrats have claimed that as many as ten Republicans have said privately that they do not agree with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for Trump’s trial, and if Roberts is who Dellinger thinks he is, Democrats only need to pick off 3 of them.

Watch the clip above via MSNBC.

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