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Nancy Pelosi stands ground on sending impeachment articles to Senate

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday on Capitol Hill. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — Under increasing pressure to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday stood her ground and said the Senate first must show they will hold a fair trial that includes witnesses and documents.

But Pelosi also said she likely will send the Senate the articles "soon."

“I'm not withholding indefinitely. I will send them over when I'm ready. And, that will probably be soon,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference. “But we want to see what they are willing to do and the manner in which they will do it.” 

Pelosi has withheld the two articles accusing President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress since House Democrats passed them Dec. 18 to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to compromise with Democrats on the shape of the trial.

But the delay has frustrated McConnell, who said he has the votes to pass a resolution to use the procedures in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. And it has led some Senate Democrats to urge Pelosi to send the articles over to the Senate.

“As I said right from the start, we need to see the arena we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?” Pelosi said, referring to House members she will appoint to prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate trial.

“They get to start this, if they choose,” McConnell said in his opening statement on the Senate floor about the House approval of articles of impeachment against Trump.

“But they do not get to declare that it can never be finished. They do not get to trap our entire country into an unending ‘Groundhog Day’ of impeachment without resolution,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, on Thursday introduced a resolution with 26 co-sponsors criticizing Pelosi and demanding she transmit the articles. “The Speaker’s attempt to shape or delay the trial is unprecedented. It cannot stand,” he said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in his opening Senate remarks that Pelosi’s withholding of the articles prevented the possibility that Senate Republicans would take a quick vote to dismiss the impeachment case before Christmas without a trial.

Both Schumer and Pelosi also said new evidence has emerged buttressing the House impeachment case, including new emails that said Trump placed and kept a hold on military aid to Ukraine over the objections of his own cabinet members.

Schumer said McConnell must commit to including documents and witnesses in the trial. Schumer is seeking testimony from four current or former Trump officials, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said he would appear if the Senate subpoenas him.

At the White House, Trump told reporters he wants witnesses, too, but his list includes Democrat Joe Biden, a potential presidential challenger, and his son Hunter. Trump has accused them of corruption, though evidence of that has not yet emerged.

Yet Trump indicated he would block Bolton from testifying, citing presidential privilege. “When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that,” he said.

Still, even members of the Senate Democratic caucus are becoming restless and want the trial to start. They include Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mt.).

Even Pelosi loyalist Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said on CNN Thursday morning that “I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial.”

But afterward Smith tweeted: “I misspoke this morning.”

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