WASHINGTON – The House will vote to send the impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate for a landmark trial on whether the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are grounds for dismissal.
President Nancy Pelosi announced the next steps on Tuesday after meeting privately with the House Democrats at the Capitol, ending her blockade a month after they voted to remove Trump. After Wednesday’s noon vote, the directors of the house appointed to continue the affair will pass the articles across the Capitol in a dramatic procession that evening.
It will only be the third presidential trial of impeachment in American history, a serious moment against the background of a politically divided nation and an election year.
“The president and the senators will be held accountable,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The American people deserve the truth and the Constitution demands a trial.”
The Senate should be transformed into a dismissal court on Thursday. The Constitution calls on the Chief Justice to preside over senators, who serve as jurors, to take an oath to render “impartial justice”.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the chief justice would open the trial this week, but the important proceedings would begin next Tuesday after the vacation of Martin Luther King Jr.
Trump was ousted last month by the Democrat-led House for abuse of power for pushing Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden after the president refused aid and hindered the Congressional investigation .
McConnell met behind closed doors to GOP senators on Tuesday who are under pressure from Democrats to call new witnesses and testimony. He urged them to stand together on the next steps, according to an unauthorized person to discuss the private session and granted anonymity.
Late Tuesday, House investigators announced that they were returning a “mine” of new recordings of phone calls, text messages and other information from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff said the information showed Trump’s efforts “to force Ukraine to assist the president’s re-election campaign.”
McConnell, who negotiates the rules of the trial, said the 53 GOP senators agreed with his plan to start the session and consider the issue of witnesses later.
Senate Republicans also said they would reject the idea of voting simply to reject the impeachment articles against Trump, as the president suggested. McConnell agreed that he did not have the votes to do so.
“There is little or no feeling at the Republican conference for a motion to reject,” said McConnell. “Our members believe that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”
In fact, an increasing number of senators say they want to ensure that the ground rules provide for the possibility of calling new witnesses.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for witness votes.
“My position is that there should be a vote on whether or not to call witnesses,” said Collins.
Romney said he wanted to hear John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, who others said has alarmed lawyer-led alternative foreign policy towards Ukraine Trump staff, Rudy Giuliani.
The Democrats have pushed Republicans, who have a slim majority in the Senate, to consider new testimony, arguing that new information emerged during Pelosi’s month-long delay in bringing charges.
“We want the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday when the chamber opened. He said that in other Presidential recall trials, the Senate had called witnesses. “Do Senate Republicans want to break the long historical precedent?”
The Republicans control the house, 53-47, and are almost certain to acquit Trump. It only takes 51 votes at the recall trial to approve the settlement or call witnesses. Only four GOP senators could form a majority with the Democrats to insist on further testimony. It would also take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
At the GOP’s private lunch, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky warned that if witnesses were allowed, witnesses for the defense could also be called. He and other Republicans want to summon Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, while his father was vice-president.
“I can’t wait to force votes to call Hunter Biden and many others,” Paul, an ally of the president, tweeted Monday evening.
McConnell is writing an organizational resolution that will outline the next steps. Approving it will be among their first trial votes, likely next Tuesday.
He prefers to model Trump’s trial in part on the process used for the trial of then president, Bill Clinton, in 1999. It also contained motions to dismiss or call new witnesses.
“Fifty-one senators will decide who to call,” said McConnell.
McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who would prolong the trial and put vulnerable senators who are ready to be re-elected in 2020 at an impasse with difficult choices. At the same time, he wants to give these same senators ample room to show voters that they are listening to demands for a fair trial.
Most Republicans now seem ready to accept McConnell’s plan to start the trial first, and then consider the witnesses later, rather than in advance, as the Democrats want.
Even though senators can vote to call new witnesses, it is not at all clear that there would be majorities to summon Bolton or the others.
“I have worked to make sure we have a process that will allow us to vote if we need more information, and yes, that would include witnesses,” Murkowski told reporters.
McConnell opened the Senate on Tuesday mocking what he called the “bizarre world” of Pelosi’s impeachment strategy which delayed the passing of charges for weeks.
“Does this sound like leaders who truly believe that we are in a constitutional crisis, which requires the most serious remedy?” Asked McConnell. He rejected Pelosi’s recent suggestions that, regardless of the Senate’s verdict, Trump would be “removed from office forever.”
“It will be up to the Senate to end it seriously and soberly,” he said.
Pelosi has yet to announce the directors of the House to pursue the matter in the Senate.
Schiff should lead the team. He made a presentation Tuesday to the caucus on the transmission of articles and the Senate trial, according to two people present in the room.
The chair of the House Judicial Committee, Jerrold Nadler, is also expected to be a director of dismissal.
The chaplain of the Senate opened the sitting of the day with an apparent sign of what awaits us.
“Teach our lawmakers to disagree with respect, civility and humility,” said chaplain Barry Black, a retired Navy Rear Admiral. Help them remember, he prayed, that “the patriots live on both sides of the aisle”.
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