House to send articles of impeachment to Senate on Wednesday
On eve of formal transmission of articles and designation of House managers, more GOP senators, like Mitt Romney, are saying they want witnesses to testify at Senate trial
WASHINGTON — The House plans to deliver articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday, launching the third trial in American history to remove a president from office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a vote will take place Wednesday to transmit impeachment charges to the Senate and approve House managers who will prosecute the case against President Donald Trump.
Following the vote, the managers will ceremonially walk the two articles of impeachment to the Senate chamber, officially starting the clock on the trial. Various news reports say housekeeping measures, such as swearing-in senators as impeachment jurors, will take place this week with opening arguments as soon as Jan. 21, after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The action will come nearly a month after the Democratic-controlled House approved on a near party-line vote two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Pelosi, D-Calif., withheld transmitting the charges after the Dec. 18 vote, saying she wanted assurance Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would conduct a “fair trial.” Whether she has that assurance is not clear.
“Hope springs eternal,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., responding to questions about whether enough Republican senators will vote to compel White House officials to testify before the Senate trial.
He explained the decision to delay the transmittal of the charges has “created space” for GOP senators like Utah’s Mitt Romney to publicly say officials such as former national security adviser John Bolton “should testify if the Senate is going to conduct a fair trial.”
Romney supports McConnell’s decision to follow the model used in the 1999 impeachment trial for President Bill Clinton, when the Senate decided on witnesses after opening arguments and questions from senators.
With a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate, McConnell has been able to rebuff Democrats’ demands that Senate rules allow additional testimony and documents. But it’s unknown whether that support will hold once the trial begins. It takes just 51 senators to set the rules, such as requesting additional witnesses.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Romney and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to ensure the ground rules include the possibility of calling new witnesses.
“I expect that barring some kind of surprise, I’ll be voting in favor of hearing from witnesses after those opening arguments,” Romney told reporters Monday.
To reach the 51 votes needed to change trial rules, Jeffries said Democrats are looking for t least one more GOP senator to support additional witnesses that would ensure “a fair and comprehensive” trial in the Senate.
Reports surfaced this week that some senators from both sides of the isle want to hear from witnesses that could help or hurt the president.
“It’s easy to see the witness debate spiraling out of control with senators seeking controversial witnesses that neither party wants to consider, absent some sort of broader agreement on the second phase of the trial,” Politico reported Monday.
Trump is accused of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine’s new leader to investigate Democrats, including political rival Joe Biden, using as leverage $400 million in military assistance for the U.S. ally in its conflict with Russia. Trump insists he did nothing wrong, but his defiance of the House Democrats’ subpoenas and document requests led to an additional charge of obstruction of Congress.
McConnell met behind closed doors later Tuesday with GOP senators as they negotiated the terms of the trial, The Associated Press reported.
Senate Republicans have signaled opposition to simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump as he has suggested.
And Pelosi denounced such a move in her statement announcing Wednesday’s vote to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“A dismissal is a cover-up,” she said. ”The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.”
McConnell said there is little support among Republican senators for a motion to dismiss, according to The Washington Post. “Our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments,” he said.
But in remarks on the Senate floor, the Senate majority leader held firm on not calling new witnesses and introducing new evidence, arguing that the call for more testimony is proof the House Democrats’ case is weak and shouldn’t have resulted in impeachment.
“If the existing case is strong, there is no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation,” he said.
But The New York Times reported that a different message is coming from the White House, where the president’s attorneys are preparing for trial. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said that the president and his team “don’t really care who comes forward, because the president’s done nothing wrong.”
“I hate to talk about hypotheticals, but let’s be clear: The president is not afraid of a fight,” Gidley said on “Fox and Friends.” “And if you or anyone within the sound of our voices have been falsely accused of a crime, with no proof, and no evidence, for more than three years, you’d want every witness to come forward too, and say this man did nothing wrong.”