Pelosi and McConnell finally break impeachment impasse
Donald Trump's impeachment trial will effectively start next Tuesday.
After weeks of stalemate between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is finally coming together.
Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution to transmit the articles of impeachment, clearing the last major hurdle before the Senate trial. Hours later, McConnell (R-Ky.) revealed that the Senate will begin its trial in earnest next Tuesday, when the chamber considers the rules package to govern the trial.
If the House transmits the impeachment articles on Wednesday, the Senate could swear in senators as jurors and take care of other housekeeping measures this week. And after Pelosi delayed for several weeks to send McConnell the articles in hopes of winning concessions from the GOP leader, Congress is going to start moving rapidly.
However, there's still plenty of intrigue. McConnell and his caucus are still debating how to handle the touchy issue of witness testimony. And while many Democrats also expected Pelosi to name the team of impeachment managers who will prosecute the trial against Trump, she declined to do so.
"I am not prepared to do that piece of it today," Pelosi told the her caucus about naming managers on Tuesday morning, according to Democrats in the room. Pelosi will hold a news conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. to name the managers, she announced late Tuesday.
The resolution the House will vote on Wednesday will do three things: transmit the articles of impeachment against Trump; name the team of impeachment managers; and provide funding for the trial. Democrats and Republicans will have five minutes per side to debate the resolution on the floor, according to rules established during the House impeachment debate in December.
Ahead of the resolution vote, the House Intelligence Committee released a trove of new evidence Tuesday evening. The materials include emails, encrypted messages, a previously undisclosed letter from Rudy Giuliani to the president of Ukraine and other information obtained from Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who currently is under criminal indictment.
”We expect to transmit tomorrow at some point in time during the day,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday. “The speaker may well announce the managers before the resolution comes to the floor.”
Then, senators are expected to work through a number of housekeeping issues — including swearing in Chief Justice John Roberts and passing a rules package — before the trial really begins. Senate Republicans expect the trial to effectively begin on Tuesday following the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday beginning with the organizing resolution.
McConnell laid out how that will go: By the end of this week senators should be sworn in as jurors. Then next week they will hear opening arguments from Pelosi's managers and the president's defense. Senators will submit written questions to Roberts for the question and answer period. They then will tackle the question of witnesses and other new evidence.
Pelosi on Tuesday also encouraged House Democrats to push back on Trump's recent call for an outright dismissal of the trial, something several Senate Republicans also said they would be against.
"Dismissal is a cover-up," Pelosi told the caucus, according to Democrats present.
In an interview, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she would oppose dismissal, joining Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). And McConnell made clear that he didn't think much of the idea either.
“There’s little to no sentiment in the Republican Conference for a motion to dismiss. Our members feel they have an obligation to listen to the arguments," McConnell said.
Pelosi faced criticism from Republicans and even some Senate Democrats for withholding the articles, first demanding that McConnell compromise on the rules of the trial.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on McConnell to agree ahead of time to call witnesses and request documents related to the Ukraine investigation that had been blocked by the White House for months.
McConnell rejected their requests and refused to relent, announcing last week that he had enough Republican support to push through a trial framework that would allow senators to force votes on witness and document requests later in the trial but not ahead of time.
McConnell taunted Pelosi last week, arguing she had no leverage and should send the articles over so the chamber can begin its trial. But Pelosi and her allies maintain the strategy was a success, pointing to the evidence that has come out in the weeks since the House impeached Trump.
"When I heard Leader McConnell three weeks ago and asked him for witnesses and documents, he didn’t pay much attention," Schumer said. "Soon we're going to have an opportunity to see where my Republican colleagues really stand on witnesses testifying and documents."
Senate Democrats are expected to force votes on witnesses during the trial, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he would testify if subpoenaed.
Despite being unified on how to start the trial, Senate Republicans are divided over whether to call witnesses later. Some moderate Republicans, including Collins, Murkowski and Romney, have said they’re open to hearing from witnesses during the trial. But so are Trump hard-liners like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who can force votes on hearing from Joe Biden and his son, among others.
“We’ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial. And I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses if they wanted to hear from them. So if you get to that issue I can’t imagine that only the witnesses our Democratic colleagues want to call will be called," McConnell said.
The House resolution naming impeachment managers will also mark the official decision to transmit its entire body of impeachment evidence to the Senate. That will include any evidence the House wants to make use of that has emerged since the Dec. 18 impeachment vote.
In addition to the evidence released Tuesday night, other documents that could be submitted internal White House budget office emails that describe alarm and legal concerns over Trump's decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine.
“Documents don’t lie, witnesses do,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told Democrats during the caucus meeting, according to attendees.
Since Pelosi first announced on Friday plans to release her hold on the articles after several weeks, much of the House Democratic Caucus’ internal chatter has focused on who will be selected as impeachment managers. The coveted job is expected to be bestowed upon roughly a half dozen House Democrats, according to several Democratic sources.
Schiff and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) are expected to lead the prosecution team.
But Pelosi has revealed little about who else she is considering, although several members have been jockeying for weeks for her attention. And lawmakers emerging from the closed-door meeting said they believed that even the Democrats who will be House managers for the trial remain in the dark.
Sarah Ferris, Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.