WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday named the lawmakers who will serve as managers in the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.
Pelosi, D-Calif., named as managers Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.; and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.; Val Demings, D-Fla.; Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; Jason Crow, D-Colo.; and Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas.
Pelosi named Schiff the lead manager. All of the managers are lawyers except for Demings, who was Orlando’s police chief. Jeffries, the Democratic Caucus chairman, is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. Crow was the only manager who doesn’t serve on one of the committees that investigated Trump, but he is a former Army Ranger who was a lawyer in private practice.
“Today is an important day,” Pelosi said. “The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.”
Trump at the White House praised his Republican defenders while noting the looming House vote to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate
“They have a hoax going on over there. Let’s take care of it,” Trump said during a ceremony announcing a China trade agreement.
He commended House Republicans for voting unanimously against his impeachment.
“What a job you’ve done,” Trump said. “I want to thank you all. Really tough. I love that.”
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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Pelosi revealed she is more focused on politics than the American people with “this sham, illegitimate impeachment.”
Grisham accused Pelosi of lying by calling the impeachment urgent and vital to national security because she held on to the articles for nearly a month after the House approved them Dec. 18.
“President Trump has done nothing wrong,” Grisham said. “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.”
The House is set to vote Wednesday afternoon on a resolution to formally appoint managers, appropriating funds for the trial and sending articles of impeachment to the Senate, where opening arguments are expected Tuesday in only the third impeachment trial of a president in history. The articles accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the vote would be in the afternoon, after 10 minutes of debate. Pelosi will sign the resolution at 5 p.m. and have the managers walk it across the Capitol to the Senate after that.
Pelosi delayed sending the articles after the House approved them Dec. 18 to learn more about how the trial would work. Some senators voiced frustration with the delay.
But Pelosi highlighted the amount of new information that has come out since last month when the House passed articles, including evidence released Tuesday from Lev Parnas, a Ukraine-born associate of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Nadler said the question is whether the Senate will allow the House to introduce the witnesses and documents they say are crucial to prosecute the case.
“This is a test of the Constitution,” Nadler said of the accusations that Trump stonewalled the investigation by directing agencies and aides to defy subpoenas for testimony and documents. “The question is: Does the Senate conduct the trial according to Constitution to vindicate the republic or does the Senate participate in the president’s crimes by covering them up?”
The House has sought testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn since last April, but the dispute remains tied up in court. Schiff said lawmakers couldn’t wait for court rulings because the president could prevent his own impeachment by stonewalling.
“The whole object of the president’s scheme was to cheat in the election, which is the ordinary mechanism for dealing with a corrupt presidency,” Schiff said.
After receiving the articles, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate will complete “housekeeping” measures Thursday, including swearing in senators and bringing over Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to preside. McConnell said the trial would likely begin Tuesday.
McConnell said Wednesday that House Democrats have “taken a dangerous road” by weaponizing impeachment because they wanted to remove Trump, not because of any dispute over Ukraine policy or military spending. McConnell said any future president could be threatened by impeachment for policy differences with Congress.
“Presidential impeachment may be the gravest process our Constitution contemplates,” McConnell said. “It undoes the people’s decision in a national election. Going about it in this subjective, unfair, and rushed way is corrosive to our institutions. It hurts national unity. And it virtually guarantees that future Houses of either party will feel free to impeach any future president they do not like.”
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House Democrats impeached Trump by accusing him of abusing the power of his office by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while Trump withheld a White House meeting and $391 million in military aid from Ukraine. The House also accused Trump of obstructing Congress by directing aides and agencies to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony, although some officials did testify.
Trump and congressional Republicans argued he had the authority to set foreign policy and was justified in fighting corruption in Ukraine. Trump has said he expects to be exonerated at the trial.
Trump will become only the third president tried in the Senate, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both were not convicted and removed from office.
A two-thirds majority of the Senate would be required to convict Trump, which is considered unlikely because Republicans outnumber Democrats 53 to 47 in the Senate. But a simple majority will settle contentious issues such as whether to subpoena witnesses or documents for new information.
Trump has called at various times for the Senate to either dismiss the charges before the arguments or hold a full trial with witnesses. But McConnell said “there is little to no sentiment” among Senate Republicans to simply dismiss the charges.
“Our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments,” McConnell said.
Pelosi doubled down on her insistence that witnesses be called after new documents were released Tuesday that show an associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a man named Lev Parnas, worked to get the Ukraine government to investigate Biden.
“There can be no full fair trial in the Senate if Leader McConnell blocks the Senate from hearing witnesses and obtaining documents President Trump is covering up,” Pelosi said in a Wednesday morning tweet.
The trial will open with statements from House managers and White House lawyers defending Trump. Then senators can submit written questions through Roberts to both sides. After those steps, Democrats and a handful of key Republicans have urged votes on whether to call witnesses.
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Former national security adviser John Bolton, who declined an invitation to testify in the House inquiry, said he would be willing to testify under subpoena in the Senate trial. But Trump said he might block Bolton’s testimony under executive privilege to protect the confidentiality of advice presidents get from top aides.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urged testimony from four witnesses, including Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. But Democrats need at least four Republicans to join them, to reach a majority of 51 senators, to approve subpoenas.
If Democrats win approval of their witnesses, Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have suggested calling Hunter Biden.
“I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses,” McConnell said. “So when you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called.“
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., noted that Trump’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 4 would probably occur during the trial. Former President Bill Clinton delivered a State of the Union speech during his impeachment trial.
“I would expect no reason to believe that same thing wouldn’t happen,” Blunt said.