Democrats and at least one Republican have slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for pledging to coordinate with the White House in the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
McConnell raised eyebrows earlier this month when he told Sean Hannity "there will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this."
"Everything I do during this, I will be coordinating with White House counsel," he added.
Although McConnell has been heavily criticized for his remarks, he may just be following a precedent created by Democrats during former president Bill Clinton's impeachment in the 1990s.
Senate Democrats coordinated with Bill Clinton and his lawyers in the 90s
Fox News reports that, according to a book by a former Washington Post reporter, "The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton," Senate Democrats privately coordinated with the White House on a number of impeachment issues in 1999.
In the book, author Peter Baker detailed how White House Counsel Charles Ruff arranged a "secret signal" with Democratic leadership.
"If Ruff wanted to rebut anything from the Republican House managers, something rules didn't allow for, he pre-arranged with then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's aides for a senator to submit a question to then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist asking the White House to respond." Aides reportedly would "fill in the name" of one of several "default senators" -- such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and then-Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. -- who had agreed to allow themselves to "be used in this way."
Fox's Adam Shaw also noted that in "The Beach," former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) personally spoke with Clinton and helped organize an effort to defeat an attempt by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) for the Senate to "take a majority vote on whether Clinton lied under oath and impeded discovery of evidence even if the chamber failed to convict him."
In the book, Baker also detailed how Clinton "tracked down Harkin in the Democratic cloakroom during a break in the trial to vent his outrage" at Collins' plan.
Baker wrote that Harkin needed no convincing. "He had immediately recognized the pernicious effects of the findings plan and set about trying to destroy it before it got too far," said the author.
Democrats now say coordinating with the White House is "out of line"
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently criticized McConnell for his comments regarding impeachment coordination.
"Saying you're going to do just what the president wants is totally out of line and Mitch McConnell has received a lot of justified criticism for that,' he said.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a high-profile moderate in the Senate who famously voted against Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, said this week that she was "disturbed" by McConnell's commitment to work closely with the White House during the upcoming impeachment trial.
"When I heard that I was disturbed," Murkowski told a local NBC station. "To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process."