House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she probably would soon send two articles of impeachment targeting President Donald Trump to the Senate so his trial can start, but she again demanded that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell first tell her the rules for the trial.
"At some point we would hope to see what the terms of engagement will be," Pelosi, leader of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, told reporters. "As I've said right from the start, we need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?"
The House last month approved the impeachment articles, accusing Trump of abusing the office of the presidency by pressing Ukraine to launch an investigation of one of his chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and obstructing congressional efforts to investigate the president’s Ukraine-related actions.
But the start of Trump's Senate trial has been delayed as Pelosi has held on to the articles of impeachment in an effort to get McConnell to agree to hear testimony from key Trump aides who were directly involved with the president as he temporarily withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine while urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open the Biden investigation.
McConnell said this week that he had enough votes in the Republican-majority Senate to proceed with the trial, assuming Pelosi were to hand over the articles of impeachment, without agreeing at the outset to subpoena witnesses and key documents related to Trump's dealings with Ukraine. McConnell said the 100-member Senate, after hearing House members make their case against Trump and hearing the president's defense, could then decide whether to call witnesses.
McConnell, coordinating trial strategy with Trump and his lawyers, has balked at hearing witnesses at Trump's trial and hopes the Senate will acquit the president after hearing the case against him and Trump's defense.
Pelosi said, "They don't want documents, documentation. They don't want witnesses."
But Pelosi, facing pressure from Republican lawmakers and some Democrats to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, said she would not hold on to them indefinitely.
'When I'm ready'
"I'll send them over when I'm ready," she said. "That will probably be soon. We want to see what they're willing to do and the manner in which they will do it."
Trump has ridiculed the Democrats' impeachment effort, only the fourth time a U.S. president has been targeted with a serious impeachment effort in the country's 243-year history. Two other U.S. presidents, Andrew Johnson in the 19th century and Bill Clinton two decades ago, were also impeached by the House but acquitted in Senate trials, while a third U.S. leader, Richard Nixon in the 1970s, resigned while facing a certain impeachment in a political corruption scandal.
On Twitter Thursday, Trump said:
A two-thirds vote in the 100-member Senate would be needed to convict Trump to remove him from office, making Trump's acquittal a near certainty. At least 20 Republicans would need to turn against Trump for a conviction, if all 47 Democrats voted against the president. A handful of Republicans have criticized Trump's Ukraine actions, but none has called for his conviction and removal from office.
Trump released the military aid to Ukraine in September without Zelenskiy’s opening the investigation of Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to undermine Trump's campaign. Republicans say the release of the aid proves Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo deal with Ukraine — the military aid for the investigations.