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McConnell says he has enough Republican votes to begin Trump's trial without witnesses

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By Adam Edelman  with NBC News Politics
Image: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office after a p
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office after a policy luncheon at the Capitol on Nov. 5, 2019.   -   Copyright  Drew Angerer Getty Images file

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Tuesday that he has enough Republican votes to start the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump without the support of Democrats, who have been demanding witness testimony.

"We have the votes once the impeachment trial has begun to pass a resolution — essentially the same as, very similar to, the 100-to-nothing vote in the Clinton trial," McConnell told reporters.

The announcement by McConnell means that once Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf., transmits the two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — the trial would begin. Under the rules announced by McConnell, the question of whether witnesses would be called would be dealt later in the trial.

The first phase of the trial would include "arguments from prosecution, arguments from defense" and a "period of written questions" submitted by Republican and Democratic senators, McConnell said.

Only after that phase would "the issue of calling witnesses" be addressed, as it was during President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial 20 years ago.

The Senate trial cannot begin until Pelosi transmits the articles to the Senate.