Pelosi says she’ll send articles of impeachment to Senate ‘soon’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she would likely send articles of impeachment to the Senate soon despite winning no concessions from Republicans on allowing witnesses to testify during a trial on the House’s charges against President Trump.
Though she refused to budge on her previous demands, Pelosi signaled that the next phase of impeachment may be imminent.
“I’m not holding them indefinitely,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol, referring to the two articles passed by the House in December over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “I’ll send them over when I’m ready, and that will probably be soon.”
Pelosi reiterated her position that she wants more details on the parameters of an impeachment trial from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) before sending over the articles.
“We need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?” Pelosi said.
She later clarified, “It doesn’t mean we have to agree to the rules, or we have to like the rules. We just want to know what they are.”
A trial in the Senate cannot begin until Pelosi sends the articles of impeachment — passed by the House on Dec. 18 charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — across the Capitol. In a surprise move last month, she declined to name impeachment managers or send the articles to the Senate following House passage.
Earlier Thursday, McConnell said that the Senate would move to other legislative activities next week if Pelosi doesn’t send over the articles soon.
“If the Speaker continues to refuse to take her own accusations to trial, the Senate will move forward next week with the business of our people,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “We will operate on the assumption that House Democrats are too embarrassed to ever move forward.”
Pelosi dismissed those barbs, and all but asked McConnell to take up separate legislation amid the impasse over impeachment. She singled out a bipartisan trade deal with Canada and Mexico, passed by the House last month, as legislation the Senate could take up in the meantime.
“He said, ‘If you don’t send them over, I’m going to pass the Mexico-U.S.-Canada trade agreement,’” she said. “OK!”
Behind McConnell, Senate Republicans have said they’re simply proceeding according to the rules set under the impeachment of President Clinton in the late 1990s.
Pelosi and Democrats have rejected that argument, noting that investigators in Clinton’s case had access to all the witnesses they wanted to hear from, three of whom subsequently testified before the Senate. They’re also pointing out that, 20 years ago, party leaders in the Senate had united to craft the rules governing the process, which passed 100 to 0 on the floor. The rules surrounding Trump’s trial, by contrast, appear destined to pass with no Democratic support.
“It’s exactly not like Clinton, in that he won’t do a bipartisan agreement on how to proceed,” Pelosi said. “That’s very important.”
Pelosi denied that Democrats don’t want to make their case in a Senate trial.
“We are ready. We are proud of our defense of the Constitution of the United States. We are concerned that the senators will not be able to live up to the oath that they must take to have an impartial trial,” Pelosi said.
“So much for that,” Pelosi added.
McConnell has remained adamant that any decisions about witnesses would come later in a Senate trial instead of at the outset. So far he has declined to meet Pelosi’s demand that he publish the resolution outlining the rules for an impeachment trial.
Earlier this week, McConnell said that he had the votes in his GOP conference to start an impeachment trial without needing any support from Democrats.
“A majority of this body has said definitively that we are not ceding our constitutional authority to the partisan designs of the Speaker. We will not let the House extend its precedent-breaking spree over here to our chamber,” McConnell said Thursday.
Pelosi’s insistence comes as some Democrats are starting to get antsy.
Several Senate Democrats have said that it’s time for Pelosi to send over the articles of impeachment, including vulnerable Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), as well as the Speaker’s home-state senator, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).
And on Thursday morning, a top House committee chairman said on CNN’s “New Day” that he believed it is “time to send the impeachment articles to the Senate.”
But Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, ultimately backtracked just under three hours later and said he “misspoke.”
“I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial. If the Speaker believes that holding on to the articles for a longer time will help force a fair trial in the Senate, then I wholeheartedly support that decision,” Smith tweeted.