WASHINGTON — House managers delivered the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate on Wednesday, completing a long day of debate, pomp and protocol, and setting in motion the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.
After ceremonially signing the two articles of impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi handed them to the seven managers who will prosecute the case and they solemnly walked through the rotunda and stately halls of the Capitol to the Senate.
As they stood in the back of the chamber, House Clerk Cheryl Johnson announced the vote on a resolution adopting the articles and appointing the managers before handing the documents to a Senate official. The ceremony attended by about a dozen Democrats and two Republicans gave official notice to the Senate, which will invite the managers to formally “exhibit” the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges to the Senate on Thursday.
“This is a difficult time for the country, But this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after reading out the resolutions that set the trial schedule for the next several days. “I’m confident this body can rise above short-termism and factional fever and serve the long-term best interests of our nation. We can do this and we must.”
Earlier in the day, the House voted to send two articles of impeachment to the Senate on a near 228-193 party line vote after a floor debate where Republicans characterized the impeachment case as a political maneuver to smear a president Democrats don’t like and Democrats defended their work as fulfilling their oath to protect the Constitution.
“This is as serious as it gets for any of us,” Pelosi said before the vote. “It’s not personal. It’s not political. It’s not partisan. It’s patriotic.”
Utah’s Republican House Reps. Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart voted against the resolution, while the delegation’s lone Democrat, Rep. Ben McAdams, voted for it. Neither of Utah’s Republican senators, Mitt Romney or Mike Lee, were in the Senate when the managers formally announced the vote.
The House resolution formally appointed the House managers Pelosi announced earlier in the day who will prosecute the impeachment case against Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York will lead a team that has extensive courtroom and impeachment experience. They include Representatives Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Zoe Lofgren of California.
Lofgren was a committee staffer who worked on the impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon and a member of the Judiciary Committee during the inquiry against President Bill Clinton.
“The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom,” Pelosi said, explaining how she assembled the team. “The emphasis is on making the strongest case to protect our Constitution.”
The abuse of power charge against Trump accuses him of pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden as Trump withheld aid from the country. He is also charged with obstructing Congress’s ensuing probe.
On Thursday, the Senate will begin the process of convening an impeachment court. After impeachment managers exhibit the charges, Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in at 2 p.m., after which he will swear in senators as jurors. The trial is expected to begin Tuesday with opening arguments from House managers and Trump’s legal counsel, which could take several days.
McConnell began his day continuing to rebuff Democrats’ demands for new witnesses and evidence to be allowed during the Senate trial, denouncing the House investigation as “a pale imitation of a real inquiry.”
“They did not pursue their own subpoenas through the courts,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor prior to Pelosi’s announcement. “They declined to litigate potential questions of privilege. They pulled the plug as soon as Speaker Pelosi realized she had enough Democratic votes to achieve a political outcome.”
Trump made a similar argument earlier Wednesday, tweeting: “Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats. All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!”
But impeachment managers countered during their morning news conference, noting the White House rejected witness and document requests and the investigation is ongoing.
House investigators announced Tuesday they were turning over a “trove” of new records obtained from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, including phone calls, text messages and other information, the Associated Press reported. Schiff said the records show Trump’s effort “to coerce Ukraine into helping the President’s reelection campaign.” He said this and other new testimony must be included in the Senate trial.
“Mitch McConnell has taken to saying the Senate should only consider the closed record that has come from the House as if the Senate isn’t a real trial but an appeal from a trial,” Schiff said. “But the framers had in mind a real trial with witnesses and evidence. And if McConnell makes this the first trial in history without witnesses, it will be exposed for what it is and that is an effort to cover-up for the president.”
McConnell is drafting an organizing resolution that will outline the steps ahead. Approving it will be among their first votes of the trial, likely next Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
He was a juror during the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999. He has said he prefers to model Trump’s trial partly on that process, which also involved motions for dismissal or calling new witnesses, hotly debated by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the time.
Republican senators appear willing to go along with McConnell’s plan to start the trial first then consider witnesses later, rather than upfront, as Democrats want.
But McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who could prolong the trial and put vulnerable senators who are up for reelection in 2020 in a bind with tough choices. At the same time, he wants to give those same senators ample room to show voters they are listening to demands for a fair trial.
Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are expected to acquit Trump. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote to convict the president. But during the trial just 51 votes are needed to approve rules or call witnesses. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is one of four Republicans identified as potentially voting with Democrats to call witnesses. Others are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
Also, news reports said some members of the Senate’s more conservative wing are making the case to McConnell to call witnesses in defense of Trump, such as the whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment and Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son who worked for a Ukrainian energy company that is central to the impeachment inquiry.
The Washington Post reported that McConnell was receptive to a more aggressive approach during the trial, which “shows how Senate Republicans are working to balance the party’s moderate wing, which has worked in recent weeks to shape GOP discussions over the trial, with its vocal conservative faction.”