Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Malaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday refused to budge on sending the articles of impeachment against President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister 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 McConnellErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request 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 BoltonWe should listen to John Bolton The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Bolton decries White House 'censorship' in rare public remarks on his book MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request Scaramucci thanks John Kelly for speaking up against Trump Trump lashes out over Kelly criticism: 'He misses the action' 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' 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 FeinsteinHouse passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber 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 BluntSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' 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) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash 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 PompeoDemocratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment 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 DurbinTrump commutes sentence of ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders surge triggers Dem angst MORE (D-Ill.) said.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocrats worried about Trump's growing strength Senate Democrats queasy over Sanders as nominee Schumer: Trump address 'demagogic, undignified, highly partisan' 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.