WASHINGTON — The impeachment of President Donald Trump will move to the Senate Thursday for a historic trial after the seven House managers who will present the case finally hand-delivered on Wednesday the charges against the president.
For only the third time, the Senate will conduct an impeachment trial of a president after the House managers return to the Senate chamber at noon Thursday to formally read the articles of impeachment and Chief Justice John Roberts later swears in all senators as juror judges.
The impeachment trial will occur at the start of a politically charged presidential election year and in a highly partisan Washington where the Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate will decide to convict or, more likely, acquit.
And a major battle looms next week when the Senate will debate and vote on the rules for the trial — most importantly on whether or when the Senate will hear new witnesses or review new documents that have recently emerged about the case against Trump.
The articles charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, by withholding U.S. aid, for Trump’s own personal and political benefit.
“So sad, so tragic for our country that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, the integrity of our elections, has taken us to this place,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before ceremonially signing a resolution to transmit the articles of impeachment.
After Pelosi and the House manager walked across the Capitol building to the Senate chamber to deliver the articles and were asked to return Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) laid out a brief schedule for the next few days.
“This is a difficult time for our country, but this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate. I’m confident this body can rise above short-termism and factional fever and serve the long-term best interests of our nation,” he said.
“We can do this, and we must,” McConnell concluded.
The Democratic-controlled House triggered the shift in venue Wednesday with a near party line 228 to 193 vote — with one Democratic nay — to transmit the impeachment articles and approve the seven House managers who will present the case against Trump.
Pelosi had delayed sending the Senate the articles for nearly a month after House Democrats on Dec. 18 approved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against Trump as she tried to force the Senate to allow new witnesses and documents in the trial.
McConnell summarily rejected Pelosi’s attempt to give leverage to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) who has insisted the Senate trial can only be fair by including four unheard witnesses and three sets of unseen documents.
In the short debate before the vote on approving the House managers, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) argued that the resolution gives the managers “broad authority to submit to the Senate any additional evidence the House may acquire on its own. And we will do so.”
But the Senate will decide beginning Tuesday what witnesses and evidence will be allowed — and when and how it could happen.
The Senate will decide those rules with a simple majority of 51 votes. McConnell, who opposes hearing witnesses, has a 53-vote majority. But some Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah have said they’d like to hear testimony.
The House managers approved by the House Wednesday will be led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry, and Nadler, the Judiciary Committee chairman who oversaw the drafting of the articles.
The other managers include litigators who represent the Democratic Party’s diversity: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado and Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California.
As Pelosi announced her hand-picked House managers, Trump tweeted: “Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats.”