The House of Representatives will vote on sending articles of impeachment to the US Senate on Wednesday, setting the stage for the historic impeachment trial against President Donald Trump to begin within days.
After withholding the articles for nearly a month in a bid to influence the rules of the trial, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, said on Tuesday that the House would “proceed with a vote on transmitting the articles of impeachment and naming impeachment managers” on Wednesday.
Impeachment managers are members of Congress who will effectively act as prosecutors during the Senate trial. Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman from California who chairs the House intelligence committee, and Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, are expected to be among the managers for Mr Trump’s trial.
Mr Trump became the third president in US history to be impeached when the House voted in December to charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But Ms Pelosi held off for nearly a month on transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate in an effort to pressure Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, to allow for new witnesses and the submission of fresh evidence during the trial.
Ms Pelosi and Charles Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, have pushed for a trial to include testimony from witnesses who did not participate in the House investigation, including John Bolton, the former US national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
Mr McConnell has rejected their requests, and said the majority of senators agree with his plan to hear opening arguments from the prosecution and the defence, then have counsel for both sides answer written questions submitted by senators, before considering whether to allow new witnesses or evidence. Mr McConnell has said his plan mirrors how Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial was conducted in 1999.
“By trying and failing to get the Senate to precommit to redoing the House’s investigation, House Democrats admitted that even they do not believe that their own case is persuasive,” Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor this week. “In other words, the president’s opponents are afraid of having the Senate judge the case they actually are going to send us. They are afraid of having the Senate judge the case they themselves voted on. That alone speaks volumes.”
Democrats have repeatedly accused Mr McConnell of running an unfair process, after the Senate majority leader told reporters last month that he was “not an impartial juror”.
More recently, Mr McConnell has supported a resolution to dismiss the articles of impeachment when they are received by the Senate, though it is unlikely that the resolution would garner enough support to pass.
Ms Pelosi said on Tuesday that the dismissal resolution was a “cover-up”, adding: “The American people will fully understand the Senate’s move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up. Leader McConnell and the president are afraid of more facts coming to light.”
The rules of an impeachment trial require the approval of a simple majority of senators. While the Republicans hold 53 of the 100 Senate seats, it remains unclear whether more moderate Republican senators, such as Mitt Romney of Utah or Susan Collins of Maine, will push to hear from new witnesses.