WASHINGTON (AP) – In a dramatic procession through the U.S. Capitol, House Democrats brought official impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump to the Senate, setting the stage for the third presidential trial in American history.
Trump again complained on Wednesday that this was all a “joke”, despite the fact that new details of his efforts in Ukraine had been released.
The solemn pomp and minutes of lawmakers pursuing the Trump case have moved the impeachment process from spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi’s democratically run house to the Senate with a republican majority, where the president’s team builds a defense that is based on a quick acquittal aims.
“Today we’re going to make history,” said Pelosi, when she signed the documents and used several pens to distribute and mark the moment. “This president will be held accountable.”
A moment later, the prosecutors solemnly walked through the stately hall and announced themselves in the back row of the Senate when the house’s announcer announced the arrival: “The house has passed House resolution 798, a resolution to appoint and approve managers of the Impeachment proceedings against Donald John Trump, President of the United States. “
The Senate will turn into an impeachment court on Thursday afternoon. The Constitution requires Supreme Judge John Roberts to lead the process and take the oath to jury senators who swear to ensure “impartial justice”.
The trial will be held before a deeply divided nation earlier this election year as Trump is seeking a second term and voters are reviewing his presidency. Three senators run for Democratic nomination.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised to “grow beyond the small fractionism” and “be fervent and serve the long-term, best interests of our nation.” He called it “a difficult time for our country”.
Technically speaking, the house only informed the Senate that the articles had been delivered and presented them more formally on Thursday. The opening disputes are scheduled to begin next Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr.’s holidays.
On Wednesday evening, Parliament voted almost entirely party-political with 228-193 votes, putting an end to a week-long delay in filling the indictment with a balance sheet that reflects the division of the nation.
Parliament accused Trump last month of abusing his presidential powers by pressuring Ukraine to investigate democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as a lever. Trump has also been accused of hindering Congress’s subsequent investigation.
“This is what impeachment is all about,” Pelosi said before the vote. “The president violated his oath of office, undermined our national security, and jeopardized the integrity of our elections.”
Trump’s political campaign dismissed the House’s efforts as “just a failed attempt to inflict political harm on President Trump prior to his re-election.”
The House’s top Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California, said the Americans looked back on this “sad saga” attempting to remove the “weakest case” president from office.
The presidential team is awaiting an acquittal for a Senate trial that may not last longer than two weeks, according to senior officials who are not authorized to discuss the matter and who have granted anonymity.
This is much shorter than the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1999 or the first against President Andrew Johnson in 1868.
While McConnell is laying down the rules for the trial, Trump has made various statements about whether he prefers a lengthy or fast process, and senators are under pressure as new evidence emerges to get more witnesses to testify.
The seven-person law enforcement team was led by the House of Representatives impeachers, Adam Schiff, MEP, and Jerrold Nadler, Justice Committee, two of Pelosi’s best representatives.
“President Trump has abused the power of his office,” said Nadler. “He did all of this for his personal political gain.”
Prior to the meeting on Wednesday, Schiff released new documents from Lev Parnas, an employee of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, about Ukraine’s strategy, including an exchange with another man about the surveillance of ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was later released.
Schiff said the new evidence should put more pressure on McConnell, who is reluctant to allow witnesses to testify, and prefers a quick acquittal. The White House has instructed officials not to honor the House’s subpoenas for testimony and documents.
“The challenge is to get a fair trial,” Schiff said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It shouldn’t be a challenge – if the senators really do their oath of being impartial, they’ll want a fair trial. Obviously that’s not where Mitch McConnell came from.”
Managers are a diverse group with legal, law enforcement and military experience, including Hakeem Jeffries from New York, Sylvia Garcia from Texas, Val Demings from Florida, Jason Crow from Colorado and Zoe Lofgren from California.
Two are inexperienced lawmakers – Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Garcia, a former judge in Houston. Demings is the former Orlando chief of police and Jeffries is a lawyer and member of the party leadership. Lofgren had the rare privilege of participating in the investigation of President Richard Nixon’s impeachment by the congressional staff – he resigned before the entire house voted on the indictment – and was then elected lawmaker during Bill Clinton’s tenure.
Everyone except the Democrat, MP Collin Peterson from Minnesota, voted in favor of the appeal for the submission of the articles. All Republicans voted against. A former Republican independent, Michigan MP Justin Amash joined the Democrats.
McConnell faces competing interests from his party to attract more witnesses, from centrists who campaign for Democrats to hear testimony and conservatives strengthen Trump’s defense.
Senate Republicans signaled that they would reject the idea of simply voting to reject impeachment proceedings against Trump, as Trump himself has suggested. McConnell agreed that he doesn’t have the votes.
Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine is trying to include Senate witnesses among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney from Utah, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee. She told reporters that she was satisfied that the rules would allow voting on this.
Romney said he wanted to hear from John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor in the White House, who was alarming the other about Giuliani’s foreign policy on Ukraine.
These or any four senators could force a result. Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are almost certain to acquit Trump. However, only 51 votes are required during the process to approve rules or call witnesses. It would also take just 51 senators to dismiss Trump’s charges.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and other Republicans want to summon Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine, Burisma, while his father was a vice president.
McConnell prefers to run Trump’s trial in part based on Clinton’s impeachment process in 1999, which later included witnesses.
McConnell is reluctant to call in new witnesses who will prolong the process and put vulnerable senators who are due for reelection in 2020 in a difficult situation. At the same time, he wants to give the same senators enough space to show voters that they are listening.
Associated press authors Zeke Miller, Alan Fram, Matthew Daly, Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick, Laurie Kellman and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.