CAPITOL HILL - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Senate will formally begin the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump early next week.
The beginning of the second phase of impeachment will follow the transmission of articles of impeachment from the Democratic-controlled U.S House of Representatives to the Republican-majority Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote Wednesday to send official impeachment charges to the Senate.
Pelosi made the announcement Tuesday, shortly after discussing impeachment proceedings at a private meeting with House Democrats, nearly a month after the House voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Pelosi said the House would also vote Wednesday to name the impeachment managers.
"The American people will fully understand the Senate’s move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up,” the House speaker said in a statement. ‘(Senate Majority) Leader (Mitch) McConnell and the president are afraid of more facts coming to light. The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.”
McConnell said the Senate would run through “housekeeping measures” later this week following acceptance of the articles of impeachment from the House. Those measures will include approving a set of rules, as well as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swearing in senators before opening arguments begin next week.
“We'll deal with the witness issue at the appropriate time during the trial — both sides will want to call witnesses they want to hear from,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Democrats have called for testimony from current and former Trump administration officials, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Republicans have countered by saying they will call their own witnesses including Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Hunter Biden had business dealings with a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father was serving as vice president.
McConnell stands his ground
The impeachment allegations contend Trump abused the office of the presidency by pressing Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden and that the president obstructed Congressional efforts to investigate his Ukraine-related actions.
Pelosi had delayed sending the articles to the Senate in a futile effort to get Senate Republican leader McConnell to agree to hear testimony from key Trump aides who were directly involved with Trump, as his administration temporarily withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, while urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open the Biden investigation.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and ridiculed Democrats’ impeachment efforts. This is the fourth time in the country’s 244-year history that a U.S. president has been targeted for removal from office.
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. A third, Richard Nixon, resigned the presidency in 1974 while facing a certain impeachment in a political corruption scandal.
Republicans stand together
The Republican-controlled Senate is widely expected to acquit Trump, particularly since no Republicans have expressed support for removing him from office.
A two-thirds vote in the 100-member Senate would be needed to convict Trump to remove him from office. 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 opening the investigation of Biden, his son Hunter's work for the Ukrainian gas company and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to undermine Trump's campaign. Republicans say releasing the aid is proof Trump did not engage in a reciprocal quid pro quo deal with Ukraine — the military aid in exchange for the investigations.