Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday refused to budge on sending the articles of impeachment against President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE to the Senate, prolonging a standoff with Republicans.

Pelosi is holding on to the articles despite some impatience from Democrats in the Senate, who say they are ready to begin a trial. 

It’s unclear how much longer Pelosi will hold off, and what she hopes to accomplish through further delay, but some Republicans said they expect her to send them as soon as Thursday.

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Democrats in December urged the Speaker to withhold the articles to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) to agree to a resolution that would require the trial to include four key administration witnesses and three sets of documents.

But McConnell has stood his ground and successfully persuaded the entire Senate Republican Conference to support a resolution that doesn’t require witnesses or documents. Instead, it would only establish the parameters for House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team to present their arguments and give senators time to submit questions in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts, who will be presiding over the trial.

Senate Democrats are now discussing what remaining tools they have at their disposal to pressure Trump.

One idea is for Pelosi to send over only one of the two articles of impeachment — the one charging Trump with obstruction of Congress. Trying that charge in the Senate would not require the testimony of witnesses Democrats want to appear, such as former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonEx-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyFauci says positive White House task force reports don't always match what he hears on the ground Bottom line White House, Senate GOP clash over testing funds MORE.

That move would allow Pelosi to initiate an impeachment trial while holding back the article alleging abuse of power until Senate Republicans say they are willing to subpoena witnesses and documents.

Pelosi made no mention Wednesday about her intended timing, but she has scheduled a press conference for 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

The House has scheduled a Thursday vote on a resolution limiting Trump’s power to take military action against Iran, raising the possibility that Pelosi wants to act on that before naming House impeachment managers.

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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) hasn’t indicated to his colleagues what Pelosi might do next. He has only urged them to support her strategy.

Schumer told Senate Democrats in a meeting Wednesday that “it’s her decision,” according to a Democratic source familiar with his comments.

Speaking to reporters, Schumer defended Pelosi when asked whether it’s time for her to relent and let the Senate trial start.

She “is doing a very good job,” Schumer said. “She is seeking our ability to get witnesses and evidence.”

But Senate Democrats are growing impatient over the impasse, which has stalled the chamber’s legislative agenda.

McConnell released the calendar for 2020 last month, and it prominently left the month of January blank in anticipation of a four-week impeachment trial.

“Time plays an unknown role in all of this, and the longer it goes on, the less the urgency becomes,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE (Calif.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “So if it’s serious and urgent, it should come over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.”

Asked if colleagues are starting to get impatient, Feinstein said, “If it’s going to happen, yes,” referring to the likelihood of a trial taking place.

“I’m not a big fan of impeachment but I think there’s enough to take a good look, and we should,” she said.

Feinstein said she doesn’t have “any sense” when the trial may start, nor do her colleagues.

Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for reelection this year, said Wednesday that Pelosi has held onto the articles of impeachment long enough.

“It’s pretty clear there’s not going to be any agreement,” he said, referring to McConnell’s statement Tuesday that he has enough votes in the GOP conference alone to pass a resolution similar to the one that set up the first phase of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial.

“The rules are going to be what they are,” Jones said. “She should know that now, so let’s just go ahead and see what we’ve got.”

Senate Republicans say they expect Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as Thursday but acknowledge they don’t know for sure.

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“Mitch thinks she’s going to send the papers Thursday,” said one GOP senator.

A senior GOP aide, however, said McConnell had not communicated any predictions during meetings Wednesday.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday discussed how they might need to set a legislative agenda for next week in case Pelosi continues to delay the impeachment trial.

“I think we’ll do USMCA. We’d like to finish it up,” said one GOP senator, referring to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal.

The Senate’s impeachment rules require a trial to convene at 1 p.m. the day after the presentation of the articles by House managers, and senators will be required to be in session six days a week — excluding Sunday — until they reach a final judgment.

Additionally, the rules require that the president be immediately notified, along with a request that his defense team appear before the chamber on a day fixed by the Senate to file its answer to the articles of impeachment.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (R-Mo.) said Trump’s legal team will be given a few days of notice before the trial starts.

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“I think we have to give a couple of days’ notice to the president to come,” he said. “After that, I think we’re scheduled to the six-day-a-week effort until we’re done.”

Blunt said if Pelosi sends the articles of impeachment on Thursday, then Monday of next week is the most likely time for the trial to start.

The chief justice’s staff has notified the Senate that Roberts will be ready to preside whenever the trial starts.

In the meantime, senators are growing antsy as the suspense builds.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Overnight Defense: Senate poised to pass defense bill with requirement to change Confederate base names | Key senator backs Germany drawdown | Space Force chooses 'semper supra' as motto Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee MORE (D-Mont.), who won reelection in 2018 in a pro-Trump state, said he’s ready to get the trial started.

“As far as I’m concerned, she can send them over at any time. I’m fine with that,” he said.

Tester said it’s “unfortunate” that Republicans have not agreed ahead of the trial to call witnesses like Bolton, Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration State Department offers M reward for foreign election interference information State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration MORE.

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But he’s ready to get going.

“I’m ready to study it,” he said.

Other Democrats are standing by Pelosi’s strategy, even though they don’t know exactly where it’s going.

“I want her to make that decision in a timely fashion based on considerations in the House and whether we have a plan for a real trial,” Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-Ill.) said.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon MORE (D-Md.) added, “We want to do this as quickly as we possibly can.”

But he argued “it’s right for us to know the rules of engagement,” noting McConnell hasn’t revealed the details of the organizing resolution he plans to pass.

“It should be a bipartisan process. It shouldn’t be the [GOP] leader telling us what it is,” Cardin said.