House sends articles of Trump impeachment, names prosecutors for Senate trial
House of Representatives impeached Trump on Dec. 18; Senate trial expected to begin next week
The U.S. House of Representatives has sent two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate and approved House prosecutors for the third impeachment trial in American history.
The ceremonial pomp and protocol by lawmakers who will be prosecuting the case against Trump moved the impeachment out of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate, where the president's team is mounting a defence aiming for swift acquittal.
"Today we will make history," Pelosi said as she signed the documents, using multiple pens to hand out and mark the moment. "This president will be held accountable."
House Democrats formally handed off the impeachment case after walking the articles across the Capitol building.
The nearly party-line vote to move Trump's impeachment from the Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate passed by a tally of 228-193.
WATCH | House Democrats deliver impeachment articles to Senate:
Procedural matters could begin as early as Thursday with the swearing-in of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and the 100 senators, though opening statements are not expected until next week.
Earlier, Pelosi named seven Democrats to present the case in the landmark Senate trial. By rank, the House impeachment managers are:
- Adam Schiff, California, House intelligence chair.
- Jerrold Nadler, New York, House judiciary chair.
- Zoe Lofgren, California.
- Hakeem Jeffries, New York.
- Val Demings, Florida.
- Jason Crow, Colorado.
- Sylvie Garcia, Texas.
The group includes a former federal prosecutor (Schiff), police chief (Demings), municipal judge (Garcia) and private practice lawyers (Crow and Jeffries). Career politicians Nadler and Lofgren have law degrees, with the latter a Democratic aide during the Richard Nixon impeachment process and a congresswoman during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial.
Schiff and Lofgren were also managers during the last federal impeachment trial in 2010 that saw a Louisiana judge removed from the federal bench.
"The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people," said Pelosi.
Trump's hearing will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, coming against the backdrop of a politically divided nation and an election year.
He was impeached by the Democratic-led House on Dec. 18 on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress over pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and a discredited theory about a computer server. Nearly $400 million US in Pentagon-approved aid was withheld from Ukraine, released weeks later once it emerged a whistleblower complaint had been initiated regarding a July 25 phone call Trump conducted with Ukraine's president.
WATCH | Top Democrats say they want fair process in Senate:
The White House quickly released a statement disparaging the latest step of what it has characterized as a partisan process.
"The Speaker lied when she claimed this was urgent and vital to national security because when the articles passed, she held them for an entire month in an egregious effort to garner political support," said spokesperson Stephanie Grisham. "She failed, and the naming of these managers does not change a single thing.
"President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated."
A resolution passed by the House in October allowed the president or his counsel to, among other things, respond to evidence, submit requests for additional testimony and cross-examine witnesses at the impeachment hearings, but the White House declined to participate.
Trump, during an event Wednesday at the White House to sign a trade pact with China, rejected the charges as a "hoax."
WATCH | Georgia Rep. Doug Collins assails impeachment push:
New details of Trump's efforts on Ukraine emerged late Tuesday, increasing pressure on senators to call witnesses in the trial, a step that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been reluctant to take.
House investigators announced they were turning over a "trove" of new records of phone calls, text messages and other information from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Schiff seized on a letter in which Giuliani claimed he was acting on behalf of the president, who had knowledge of his actions.
"That letter makes clear that Giuliani, in his own words, is acting at the behest and with the knowledge and consent of the president," said Schiff. "There is no fobbing this off on others. The president was the architect of this scheme."
The Senate is expected to transform into an impeachment court as early as Thursday, although significant proceedings wouldn't begin until next Tuesday.
McConnell, who is negotiating rules for the trial proceedings, said all 53 Republican senators are on board with his plan to start the session and consider the issue of witnesses later.
Senate Republicans also signalled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump, as Trump himself has suggested. McConnell agreed he does not have the votes to do that.
"There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss," McConnell said Tuesday. "Our members feel we have an obligation to listen to the arguments."
WATCH | Former federal prosecutor says trial won't be anything like a regular court case:
"If McConnell makes this the first trial in history without witnesses, it will be exposed for what it is, and that is an effort to cover up for the president," Schiff said on Wednesday.
Most Republicans appear willing to go along with McConnell's plan to start the trial first then consider witnesses later, rather than upfront, as Democrats want. But a growing number of senators say they want to ensure the ground rules include the possibility of calling new witnesses.
Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have a slim Senate majority, to consider new testimony, arguing fresh information has emerged during Pelosi's month-long delay in transmitting the charges.
Republicans control the chamber 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Trump. It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses. Just four Republican senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new testimony. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
McConnell prefers to model Trump's trial partly on the process used for then-president Bill Clinton's trial in 1999. It, too, contained motions for dismissal or calling new witnesses.
The Clinton impeachment trial lasted five weeks, which few observers expect this time. Republicans then named 13 managers, all white males, a number that at least one legislator said later was a mistake.
The Trump impeachment trial could conceivably burden senators on the campaign trail for the Democratic nomination for president: Michael Bennet of Colorado, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The only other presidential impeachment trial in the Senate involved President Andrew Johnson in the 19th century. Johnson was acquitted, while Nixon resigned in 1974 before a planned House vote on articles of impeachment.
With files from CBC News