Democratic Senator: If McConnell Holds 'Rigged Trial,' Trump Can't Be Exonerated by Acquittal

Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen said he supports holding the articles of impeachment from the Senate until Republicans agree to call witnesses and introduce documents—otherwise it's a "rigged trial."

Van Hollen joined several Democratic senators in expressing tacit support for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's demands that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hold a "fair trial."

Van Hollen warned on ABC News' This Week program Sunday that President Donald Trump cannot be exonerated through acquittal if the Senate trial is "rigged" and no additional evidence or witnesses are allowed to be brought forth. He said he ultimately believes Pelosi has been "very clear" she intends to have a trial sooner or later.

The Maryland Democratic senator said McConnell's previous comments about working in "total coordination" with the White House to acquit Trump clearly shows he's trying to "rig the trial" and engage in a "cover-up."

"[The Senate Republicans] are going to have to answer for the fact they don't want to see any more evidence," Val Hollen said. "Right? Those who vote against witnesses and vote against documents are essentially telling the American people they don't want to see anything, they don't want to hear anything, and in doing so you're really complicit in a cover-up."

"We're focusing on the importance of a fair trial, and all Americans, I think, understand that a fair trial means you get to call your witnesses. Senator Murkowski put her finger on the big issue: Is Senator McConnell going to try to rig this trial right from the start?

"[Is McConnell] working in lockstep with the president and his lawyers or is he going to allow a fair trial which your own ABC poll showed 70 percent of Americans say that requires witnesses and documents. That's exactly why we're having the conversation that we're having over these weeks. We keep hearing President Trump says he's going to be exonerated. Look if you have a rigged trial, there is no exoneration in acquittal from a farce," Van Hollen continued.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl asked Van Hollen whether he believes Murkowski, Mitt Romney or any other GOP senators who have previously criticized the president could potentially vote in favor of convicting Trump. Van Hollen said there are only "ongoing conversations ... it's too early to say. But when it comes down to it, I think a lot of senators are going to have to think and long hard about that vote."

Van Hollen noted that Pelosi will ultimately send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate when they have made more guarantees about the fairness of the trial. He cautioned that damning evidence against Trump is still surfacing and those documents should be accounted for in a fair process.

"I think she's been very clear—there will be a trial. So yes, she will be sending over the articles of impeachment. I think right now we're engaging in this conversation about the importance of being able to call witnesses. We saw not long ago that more documents surfaced out of the White House about Michael Duffy ... that just highlights the importance of getting access to this evidence and documents."

Van Hollen said the previous impeachment trials allowed evidence and documents, and Trump's Senate trial should be no different.

senator chris van hollen impeachment
Senator Chris Van Hollen said he supports holding the articles of impeachment from the U.S. Senate until Republicans agree to call witnesses and review documents - otherwise it's a "rigged trial."