Stage set in Senate for trial of Trump after impeachment articles delivered

Jan 16, 2020
In The News

Stage set in Senate for trial of Trump after impeachment articles delivered

Written by: Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports
Published by: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A team of newly appointed House impeachment managers marched two charges against President Donald Trump across the Capitol on Wednesday, delivering them to the Senate along with a formal notification that the team is ready to begin the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The highly choreographed procession, conducted hours after the House voted almost entirely along party lines to send the articles of impeachment and appoint the managers, marked the beginning of the impeachment case’s next phase.

It will be the first impeachment trial to play out in a presidential election year.

The crux of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as look into whether Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The resolution was approved 228-193, breaking largely along party lines.

Only one Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, joined every Republican in voting “no.”

Three House members from Arkansas voted against the resolution. The fourth, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, was absent. The Republican from Jonesboro was in Arkansas last week because of a family member’s medical emergency. He hasn’t yet returned to Washington, his office said.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, a Republican from Little Rock, said he didn’t believe Trump’s actions merited removal. Nor did he approve of the way the impeachment process was handled, he said.

“Both on substantive grounds and process grounds, I don’t believe the House should’ve handled this Ukraine matter in the way they chose to and, as a result, I didn’t support forwarding the articles to the Senate and naming the managers,” he said.

In an interview shortly before the vote, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Rogers, portrayed it as an exercise in futility.

“It’s probably produced all of the results that the Democrats could hope for,” he said. “I don’t sense it will go anywhere in the Senate, but we’ll see.”

Now the trial is set to begin. Today, the Senate will invite the impeachment managers to formally exhibit the articles. Once they do so, the Senate will summon Chief Justice John Roberts to preside, and all senators will take an oath to administer “impartial justice.”

The Senate must promptly issue a summons to Trump informing him of the charges and requesting a response. At the White House on Wednesday, Trump again denounced the inquiry as a “hoax” and encouraged Republican lawmakers to rally to his defense.

“I’d rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you,” Trump told lawmakers during a signing ceremony for an initial trade deal with China, instructing them to leave if they needed to cast votes at the Capitol against moving forward with impeachment. “They have a hoax going on over there — let’s take care of it.”

The president’s team expects acquittal with a Senate trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior administration officials who were granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.

That’s far shorter than the last presidential impeachment trial, of President Bill Clinton in 1999, or the first one, of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.

“We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said as she spoke on the House floor before the vote. Regardless of the outcome, she added, Trump would be “impeached for life.”

“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.”

SENATE TRIAL

Earlier Wednesday, Pelosi introduced the lawmakers who would serve as prosecutors, or managers, of the case. Both chambers were also grappling Wednesday with a trove of new documents that played into Democrats’ arguments that any trial must include new witnesses and evidence. More material was expected to be disclosed, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.

“Time has been our friend in all of this because it has yielded incriminating evidence, more truth into the public domain,” Pelosi told reporters, arguing that the emergence of new revelations had validated her strategy to delay pressing charges for weeks.

In the Senate, the contours of the trial were taking shape as crucial Republicans indicated they would soon debate the issue of whether to call witnesses during the proceedings. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she had worked with several like-minded Republicans — Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — to ensure a vote on the matter after opening arguments from each side, which Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has already proposed.

Pelosi announced a House prosecution team that will be led by Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry.

He will be joined by Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Zoe Lofgren of California; Hakeem Jeffries of New York; Val Demings of Florida; Jason Crow of Colorado; and Sylvia Garcia of Texas.

Pelosi’s team of managers is both smaller and more diverse than the group of lawmakers that House Republicans tapped for the impeachment trial of Clinton.

Several of the lawmakers chosen by Pelosi have courtroom experience of some kind, a quality that the House speaker said she sought. Two of the lawmakers, Crow and Garcia, are first-term members.

The managers met for the first time as a group on Wednesday to discuss strategy in the basement chambers of the Intelligence Committee, where the impeachment inquiry unfolded last fall.

“This trial is necessary because President Trump gravely abused the power of his office when he strong-armed a foreign government to announce investigations into his domestic political rival,” Nadler said during a brief debate on the House floor before the vote.

Republicans countered by arguing that Democrats were motivated by their dislike of Trump. “This has always been a political impeachment,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

McConnell called the House’s three-month Ukraine investigation “a pale imitation of a real inquiry.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the whole process a “national nightmare.”

Both men also accused Democrats of hypocrisy for their decision to delay bringing the charges for nearly a month after arguing that the threat posed by Trump to the 2020 election was urgent and demanded quick action to remove him.

“I have three questions for my friends on the other side of the aisle, the Democrats,” McCarthy said. “What happened to impeachment being urgent? What happened to Congress being on the clock? What happened to the House being derelict in our duty if we did not act immediately?”

Republican leaders have said the proceeding will not begin in earnest until Tuesday, after the long holiday weekend. That will give them time to clear other pending legislative items, including a North American trade agreement, and finish preparing for a process that could consume senators’ time for weeks.

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