WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will take steps next week to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, ending Democrats’ blockade of President Donald Trump’s Senate trial.
In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday she is proud of their ‘’courage and patriotism” and warned that senators now have a choice as they consider the charges of abuse and obstruction against the president.
“In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to do ‘impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,’” Pelosi wrote. ”Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution.”
The move could mean the trial starts as soon as next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday afternoon that the Senate is “anxious to get started” and “we’ll get about it as soon as we can.”
Soon after Pelosi sent out the letter, Trump criticized her in an interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News. He said it is “ridiculous” that she has withheld the articles.
“She should have sent them a long time ago. It just belittles the process,” Trump said. “Nancy Pelosi will go down as the least-successful speaker of the House in the history of our nation.”
The president also expressed concern about former national security adviser John Bolton’s announcement that he would testify in the Senate trial if called. Asked if he would invoke executive privilege to stop it, Trump said, “Well I think you have to, for the sake of the office.”
Chuck Cooper, an attorney for Bolton, would not comment for this repeort.
Bolton was present for several of the internal White House discussions about Ukraine policy that were at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment case. The president faces charges of abuse and obstruction over his efforts to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.
Since the House Democrats’ vote on Dec. 18 to impeach the president, Pelosi has been in a standoff with McConnell that has consumed Capitol Hill and scrambled the political dynamics. She said she did not want to send the articles to the Senate unless she knew there would be a fair trial with witness testimony.
Pelosi also demanded that McConnell provide details on the structure of the trial before she would decide who to appoint as impeachment managers. McConnell did not provide them.
On Friday, Pelosi said she had asked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to prepare to bring to the floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“I will be consulting with you at our Tuesday House Democratic Caucus meeting on how we proceed further,” Pelosi wrote in the letter to her colleagues. She did not announce a date for a House vote.
A Senate presidential impeachment trial would be only the third in the nation’s history.
Transmittal of the documents and naming of House impeachment managers are the next steps needed to start the Senate trial. Yet, questions remain in the Senate on the scope and duration.
McConnell wants a speedy trial without new witnesses. Democrats point to what they say is new evidence that has emerged, as well as Bolton’s proclaimed willingness to testify.
Some Republicans in McConnell’s caucus have indicated that they are open to witnesses.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is up for reelection this year, said in a statement Friday that she is in discussions with some of her GOP colleagues about how they can adhere “as closely as practical” to former president Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, which included closed-door witness testimony.
“I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for witnesses for both the House managers and the president’s counsel if they choose to do so,” Collins said. “It is important that both sides be treated fairly.”
House Democrats voted to impeach Trump in December on the charge that he abused the power of his office by pressing for the Biden investigation, using as leverage $400 million in military aid. Trump insists he did nothing wrong, but his defiance of the Democrats’ investigation led to an additional charge of obstruction of Congress.
No House Republicans voted in favor of either article of impeachment, and have a 53-47 majority in the Senate.
As Pelosi has withheld the articles, Democrats have tried to use the delay to sow public doubt about the fairness of the
Senate process, hoping to peel off some GOP senators in any upcoming votes. It takes just 51 senators to set the rules of impeachment.
After Pelosi’s announcement on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. issued a short statement: “Senate Democrats are ready for the trial to begin and will do everything we can to see that the truth comes out.”
On a July 25, 2019, telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asked his counterpart to open an investigation into the Bidens. Democrat Joe Biden is running for his party’s presidential nomination. When the Ukrainian energy company hired Hunter Biden, his father was then-President Barack Obama’s point man on Ukraine.
Pelosi’s delay on impeachment also has upended the political calendar, with the weekslong trial now expected to bump into presidential nominating contests, which begin in early February. Several Democrats in the Senate also are running for the party’s nomination.
It’s still unclear who Pelosi will appoint as impeachment managers to prosecute the case in the Senate. Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will most likely lead the team.