House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing by her vow that the House won’t appoint “managers” to deliver articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate until more is known about how his trial will be run.
“The House cannot choose our impeachment managers until we know what sort of trial the Senate will conduct,” Ms Pelosi tweeted on Monday, adding that Mr Trump “blocked his own witnesses and documents from the House, and from the American people, on phony complaints about the House process”.
The California Democrat was responding to a morning Twitter missive from Mr Trump, complaining that she was “crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so” after giving him ” the most unfair trial in the history of the US Congress”.
But Mr Trump’s assertion that he was given a trial of any kind in the House flies in the face of American constitutional history, as the country’s founding document gives the Senate the sole power to conduct impeachment trials.
It is how that power will be exercised that is behind Ms Pelosi’s decision to refrain from transmitting the articles of impeachment which the House approved against Mr Trump for abusing his power by withholding $391m in military aid to Ukraine in order to force that country’s president to investigate one of his political rivals, and for obstructing Congress by ordering administration officials to not cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry.
That break from precedent, which she and her committee chairs announced during a press conference shortly after last week’s vote, came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that he’d be coordinating the conduct of any Senate trial with the White House Counsel’s office.
“This is a serious matter even though the majority leader in the United States Senate says it is ok for the foreman of the jury to be in cahoots with lawyers of the accused,” she said at the time.
Since then, Mr Trump and his allies have claimed that Democrats’ failure to transmit the articles to the Senate are an indicator that the case against the president is weak.
At issue in the dispute is whether the Senate will hear from witnesses during Mr Trump’s trial. While Democrats want guarantees that the Senate’s trial procedures will allow for witness testimony, many Republicans — including McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham — want a quick presentation of the case that will allow them to declare the president heading into next year’s election.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says recently-released emails which reveal how the White House ordered the Pentagon to withhold aid to Ukraine within hours of Mr Trump’s request of “a favor” from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky underscore the importance of forcing the White House to produce witnesses and documents.
In a letter sent Monday to all 99 of his senate colleagues, the New York Democrat wrote that “there simply is no good reason why evidence that is directly relevant to the conduct at issue in the Articles of Impeachment should be withheld from the Senate and the American people”.
“Relevant documentary evidence currently in the possession of the Administration will augment the existing evidentiary record and will allow Senators to reach judgments informed by all of the available facts,” Mr Schumer continued. “To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of Senators to “do impartial justice” according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial”.
A source close to Republican Senate leadership told The Independent that it was unlikely that Mr McConnell would make any decisions on what an impeachment trial would look like before the Senate returns to Washington on January 6.