Three weeks after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to officially send articles of impeachment to the Senate—a move that ends the House’s role in the process and tees up a Senate trial that could begin as early as next week.
Pelosi put an end to weeks of speculation about her strategy with a low-key letter to fellow House Democrats on Friday morning. The speaker wrote that she had asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to be “prepared” to introduce a resolution next week that would transmit the articles to the Senate and appoint the handful of Democratic lawmakers who will act as prosecutors in the trial.
“In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,’” wrote Pelosi. “Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution.”
The release comes as a relief to some Democrats who had steadily lost patience with Pelosi’s gambit to hold the articles on the House side in the hopes of pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to implement procedures for a Senate trial that Democrats would consider fair—including an agreement to allow new witnesses and evidence to be presented.
McConnell, for his part, ignored Pelosi’s move, proceeding with a plan to mirror the rules set up during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, which provided for a vote to call additional witnesses after the White House and the House impeachment managers have presented their case.
McConnell announced this week he has the votes to bypass Senate Democrats and pass his preferred rules package, foreclosing the prospect of further negotiations over a bipartisan set of rules.
“‘There will be no unfair new rulebook written solely for President Trump,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “The basic organization of the first phase of this trial will track with phase one of the Clinton trial—which all 100 senators voted for in 1999. I’ve said for months that this is our preferred route.”
Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to force votes to subpoena several witnesses who had been blocked from testifying by Trump—including former National Security Adviser John Bolton—and to request documents once the trial begins. Democrats hope some of these votes will attract the support of moderate Republicans.
“[W]hen the impeachment trial begins in the Senate, the issue will return to witnesses and documents,” Schumer said in a speech that followed McConnell’s remarks. “It has been out there all along, but it will come back even stronger. That question won’t be decided fortunately just by Leader McConnell, every Senator will have to vote on that question.”
The House voted on Dec. 19 to impeach Trump on two articles of impeachment sparked by Trump’s decision to withhold critical funding from Ukraine in order to pressure that country's newly elected leader to investigate a political rival of Trump. The first charge, abuse of power, passed 230-197. The second, obstruction of Congress, passed 229-198. Both votes broke down almost entirely along party lines, with a conservative Democrat and a now-ex Democrat voting with the GOP.