Pelosi digs in on impeachment rules fight
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is leaning into her plans to withhold sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, amplifying her position Tuesday that she won’t deliver them until she knows what a trial in the upper chamber will look like.
Pelosi, writing in a letter to her Democratic colleagues, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to promptly unveil the resolution that will lay out the guidelines for the trial centered on President Trump’s contacts with Ukraine and whether they warrant his removal from office.
The Democratic leader dug in on her plans to withhold the articles after McConnell announced at a press conference earlier in the day that Republicans “have the votes” to pass a resolution to start the impeachment trial without requiring additional witnesses and key documents.
“It is important that he immediately publish this resolution, so that, as I have said before, we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate,” Pelosi wrote in her letter.
The Democratic leader also continued to hammer McConnell for his earlier remarks that he would be in “total coordination” with the White House on strategy for the impeachment trial.
“Sadly, Leader McConnell has made clear that his loyalty is to the President and not the Constitution. Leader McConnell has insisted that the approach under consideration is identical to those of the Clinton trial and that ‘fair is fair.’ This is simply not true,” Pelosi wrote. “This process is not only unfair but designed to deprive Senators and the American people of crucial documents and testimony. Under the Clinton trial, witnesses were deposed.”
Pelosi’s letter comes after she briefed Democratic members in a meeting earlier in the day that she will not hand over the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of justice – and spoke with lawmakers about her plan to keep up the fight.
During the meeting with Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee in the Capitol basement, Pelosi also sought to invalidate McConnell’s argument that the Senate is merely following the same procedures that governed President Clinton’s impeachment in the late 1990s.
McConnell cited the Clinton impeachment proceedings earlier in the day Tuesday, saying, “We’ll be glad to show [the resolution] to you when we unveil it.”
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) said Pelosi “just talked about the differences between what McConnell wants to do and what was done during the Clinton impeachment, and how he’s taken liberties with the facts.”
“It was just the process that they’re proposing and how that was different from what happened in the Clinton administration,” he said.
Thompson said the caucus is united behind Pelosi’s decision to withhold the articles from the Senate as Democrats seek a commitment from Senate GOP leaders for a fair trial — particularly after John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, offered to testify.
“Especially now when you’ve got key individuals who were asked to testify in the House, and the president precluded them from testifying, and now they’re saying they will testify in the Senate.”
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) delivered a similar message, saying Democrats will support the transfer of articles “only if it’s a real trial.”
“And for it to be a real trial they’re going to have to consider evidence — evidence to come in the form of testimony,” he said.
“The entire context was so dramatically different,” echoed “The Ken Starr investigation; all the work that was done leading up to impeachment. Clinton was so dramatically different that there’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison.”
Democrats have been pressing McConnell to allow them to call witnesses, and Pelosi has delayed passing the two articles as leverage in her demands for what she says is a fair trial.
Their back and forth is the start of a renewed battle since Congress has returned to Capitol Hill after a break over the holidays.
Pelosi got a win for her political gamble towards the end of the recess when Bolton said he would agree to testify if the GOP-controlled Senate decided to subpoena him for testimony.
Bolton’s announcement sparked a new push among Democrats for McConnell to bend on his stance about witnesses. But the GOP leader’s announcement Tuesday suggests it didn’t make a dent.
McConnell has said that he wants to follow the Clinton impeachment process by having a first vote on a resolution setting the guidelines of the trial and then a separate vote over whether to call witnesses — something he and other Republicans have opposed.
Democrats, on the other hand, want to secure witness testimony before the trial begins.