Schumer, Pelosi to meet as Democrats debate tactics

Schumer, Pelosi to meet as Democrats debate tactics
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Top intelligence officials to brief Gang of Eight on Thursday Over 1700 veterans ask Senate to pass statehood bill MORE (N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse votes unanimously to extend deadline for coronavirus small-business loan program Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves .5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated MORE (D-Calif.) plan to meet Thursday to discuss strategy for a Senate impeachment trial amid a debate over whether Democrats should hold back the articles of impeachment.

Some Democrats say Pelosi should consider holding the articles to put pressure on McConnell to agree to trial rules that would allow for additional witnesses and documents to be presented to the Senate.

Pelosi after the House impeachment vote declined to say whether she would send the articles to the Senate.

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"We'll make that decision as a group, as we always have, as we go along," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Democrats in the Senate are also set to discuss how to approach negotiations with Senate Republicans at ther regular Thursday lunch meeting. 

There is support for holding back the articles from some senators, though it is becoming a divisive issue.

“I think we ought to have an agreement upon the rules before we start the trial,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats MORE (D-Va.), who said senators need to hear from “witnesses who have direct firsthand knowledge” and review “the documents that bear directly on the question.”

Kaine said Pelosi should push for an agreement on the rules before appointing managers for impeachment.

“I can see why she might say, ‘You don’t have to agree on everything, but at least agree on what the rules are before I appoint the managers,’” he said.

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Not every Democrat thinks it would be wise to hold the articles back.

Some, including Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources MORE (Ill.), warn that holding the articles of impeachment in the House could be seen as playing political games and backfire, according to senators familiar with the internal discussion.  

“I would encourage everyone to follow the letter of the law, the precedent that’s been established and the wording of the Constitution,” Durbin told reporters Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers who favor holding the articles in the House until McConnell compromises on a rules package, however, say there is no constitutional requirement to send them to the Senate by a certain time.

McConnell, who has so far ignored Schumer’s invitation to meet to lay out the rules for the impeachment trial, has told colleagues that he doesn’t want to call witnesses and wants to keep the trial short.

Schumer sent a letter to McConnell Sunday requesting the testimony of four witnesses: Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneySupreme Court ruling could unleash new legal challenges to consumer bureau Bottom line White House goes through dizzying change in staff MORE; former National Security Adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonBolton says he would have personally briefed Trump on Russian bounties Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Mark Penn Judge temporarily blocks publication of Mary Trump book MORE; Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff; and Michael Duffy, associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget.

On Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that any agreement on the trial’s procedures should only cover how much time is allocated for the House impeachment managers and President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE’s defense team to lay out their arguments, and for senators to ask questions. He said the question of witnesses should be decided only after both sides have presented their cases.

The impasse between Schumer and McConnell has spawned a debate among Democratic lawmakers as what the next steps should be. 

Democratic senators say it’s ultimately up to Pelosi whether to delay the articles of impeachment. They say the move would put more attention on McConnell’s refusal to agree to a rules package that allows for witnesses and additional documentary evidence from the outset.

Some Democrats worry about the House impeachment managers walking into the trial blindly.  

A Democratic senator who requested anonymity said “as a trial lawyer you don’t go to trial unless you’re ready and you don’t go to trial unless you think you’re going to win.”

The lawmaker said the articles of impeachment could be held over Trump’s head until his Senate Republican allies agree to the trial rules.

“I’d be fine with them not sending the articles of impeachment over and continuing to investigate,” the lawmaker added. “It would hold a hammer over the president.”

A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity said even a brief delay of the articles of impeachment will put more public attention on McConnell’s opposition to calling witnesses.

That in turn would put more attention on the votes of moderate Republicans such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (R-Alaska), and vulnerable Republicans such as Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hickenlooper beats back progressive challenge in Colorado primary MORE (R-Colo.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyPolitical establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Where things stand in 13 battleground states MORE (R-Ariz.), on procedural questions.

If McConnell continues to balk at calling witnesses, Democrats will force procedural votes and shift pressure to members of his caucus.  

“Let’s say he doesn’t agree to it, we can have a vote and that puts additional pressure on his caucus,” the lawmaker said.