Durbin warns Senate GOP colleagues on impeachment trial: 'History will find you'

Durbin, the Senate minority whip, said on "Meet the Press" that a "fair" trial must include witnesses and evidence.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., warned his Republican colleagues Sunday that history will judge senators who don't agree to a "fair" impeachment trial for President Donald Trump.

With the Senate trial beginning this week, Durbin said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that there hasn't been even "the most basic negotiation" between Republican and Democratic senators. But he said he believes the public will push for lawmakers to hear from additional witnesses and to request more documentation in the coming days.

"A fair trial, everyone understands, involves evidence. Evidence involves documents and witnesses," Durbin said.

"The Senate is on trial. And I hope, at the end of the day, enough Republican senators will understand: History will find you," he said. "Make certain that you make a decision that you can live with in terms of our Constitution and your own professional career."

Opening statements are set to begin on Tuesday, but both sides have already begun laying out their arguments.

House impeachment managers filed their brief Saturday night, arguing that Trump presents a "danger to our democratic processes" and that the framers of the Constitution "would have considered a President's attempt to corrupt America's democratic processes by demanding political favors from foreign powers to be a singularly pernicious act."

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

But in a weekend letter of their own, the leaders of Trump's legal team called the impeachment process its own form of election interference aimed at wresting Trump from power unfairly.

"The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution of the United States, our democratic institutions, and the American people," Trump's legal team wrote. "The Articles themselves — and the rigged process that brought them here — are a transparently political act by House Democrats."

Trump's trial brief is due Monday.

Since the House voted to impeach Trump in mid-December, there has been a flurry of new reports on the subject at the heart of his impeachment — allegations that Trump leveraged official power to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 presidential opponent.

The developments have further encouraged Democrats to call on the Senate to hear from four key witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

Rank-and-file Republicans have so far balked at those requests, allowing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to move forward without a deal on witnesses. Some Republicans have argued that Democratic calls for hearing witnesses should be met with a push to have Biden or his son, Hunter, testify.

Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said the Senate will hear opening arguments and ask questions before deciding whether to call new witnesses.

But he cautioned that he would be open to hearing only from witnesses "within the scope of these two articles of impeachment," and he framed the impeachment as an attempt to "undue the 2016 election."

"My personal preference would be to see this thing dismissed out of hand, because I think it's an illegitimate process in the House," he said.

"They did not give this president due process," he said. "But what Mitch McConnell has decided to do, I support."