House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that after Democrats and Republicans agree on rules for the Senate trial of President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment, “we’re ready” to move forward and send the articles to the Senate.
“When we see the process that is set forth in the Senate, then we’ll know the number of managers that we may have to go forward and who we will choose,” she said at her weekly news conference.
After the House impeached Trump on Wednesday night on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rivals, Pelosi suggested that Democrats needed to have assurances of a fair trial before submitting the articles.
But at her weekly news conference on Thursday, Pelosi didn’t say that Democrats must get assurances of a fair trial before transmitting the articles. She said that she wanted to see how the Senate planned to set up the trial because the makeup of the trial could dictate the managers she appoints to prosecute the case.
Pelosi shut down questions about when Democrats will send the articles to the Senate, saying she would not discuss it further.
“I’ve said what I was going to say,” she said.
Asked if she believes she is running the risk, as the Republicans have said, of looking like she is playing games with impeachment by not transmitting the articles to the Senate, Pelosi responded: “Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say.”
Representative James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, raised the possibility that the House could permanently withhold the articles from the Senate if it didn’t get assurances of a fair trial.
He told CNN on Thursday morning that he was willing to wait “as long as it takes” to send the articles.
In an interview with Politico, Pelosi blamed Senate Majority Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for the impasse on trial rules, saying he wasn’t abiding by precedent set during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998.
“They had a bipartisan bill with 100 senators voting for it, that’s the precedent. That’s not what McConnell was saying,” Pelosi said. “But let’s give them the chance to do what they have to do over there. And so until they do, there’s really not that much to talk about.”
From the Senate floor on Thursday, McConnell said: “The vote (Wednesday) did not reflect what had been proven; it only reflects how they feel about the president. The Senate must put this right. We must rise to this occasion. There is only one outcome that is suited to the paucity of evidence, the failed inquiry, the slapdash case.
“The prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial,” McConnell continued. “They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they’re content to sit on their hands. This is comical.”
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called McConnell’s speech a “30-minute partisan screed”.
At the House, Pelosi responded: “I don’t think anybody expected that we would have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Pelosi’s suggestion that she would hold the articles of impeachment until her terms around the Senate trial are set “constitutional extortion”.
“This is a land – uncharted waters, constitutionally. I just know this – that this matters to the future of the country,” Graham said. “We cannot have a system where the House impeaches the president, tells the Senate how to conduct the trial, holds the articles of impeachment over the president’s head at a time of their choosing to unleash them.”
Graham told reporters that he spoke to Trump on Thursday morning, and the president’s message was “what are they doing?”
“And I said, Mr. President, I don’t know,” Graham said.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” Trump tweeted Thursday. “The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!”
McConnell and Schumer met Thursday afternoon in what would be their first discussion on the rules for the impeachment trial. They walked into a room off the Senate floor and left about 20 minutes later.
Asked later how he felt about Pelosi potentially withholding the articles, McConnell said: “If the speaker wants to hold on to them, it’s fine with us.”
McConnell has told his members to expect the announcement of a trial date by Friday. The House is scheduled to recess Friday for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays possibly without taking the votes required to start the Senate process, The New York Times reported.
McConnell and Schumer will need to reach an agreement on the parameters of the trial — including the time frame, witness testimony and obtaining documents — which will require 51 votes.
Schumer and his caucus are asking for four witnesses as part of the impeachment trial,
including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. He also wants the Senate to pass one resolution that governs both process and specific witnesses, instead of two separate resolutions as occurred during the trial for Clinton, who was acquitted.
McConnell has said he doesn’t want any witnesses as part of the trial. Republicans noted that there were no witnesses at Clinton’s trial.
McConnell also has said that he has no intention of acting as an impartial juror in a trial, but would instead do everything in his power, working in concert with the White House, to quickly acquit the president.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday found that 42 percent of Americans say Trump should be removed from office following his impeachment.