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WASHINGTON — Minutes after the House voted to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dropped a bombshell: She won’t send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until she feels they’ll get a fair hearing on the other side of Capitol Hill.
“We have legislation approved by the Rules Committee that will enable us to decide how we will send over the articles of impeachment,” Pelosi announced in a Wednesday night press conference. “We cannot name [impeachment] managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side.”
The move could delay a Senate trial — and it's an attempt by House Democratic leaders to try to leverage their power to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to make concessions on how the trial will be run.
McConnell has been explicit that his only goal is to help Trump and the GOP, declaring Tuesday that he’s “not an impartial juror” and that he's coordinating directly with the White House on impeachment strategy.
McConnell has refused Democrats’ demand to call witnesses in the Senate trial — a major departure from the bipartisan process embraced by the Senate during President Clinton’s impeachment trial. And he’s pushed to try to get through the impeachment trial as rapidly as possible, with minimal fanfare.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) backed up his leader.
“The question is now whether Sen. McConnell will allow a fair trial in the Senate, whether the majority leader will allow a trial that involves witnesses and testimony and documents. A trial that should be fair to the president, yes, but should be fair to the American people,” he said.
Pelosi’s move could help Democrats pressure McConnell to change his tune. But after the day had focused heavily on the evidence that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political foes, her closing comments turned the focus to process, a muddled fight Republicans would much rather have.
Remarkably, Pelosi repeatedly refused to guarantee that the Senate would ever get the articles of impeachment, effectively undercutting the pressure that the Constitutional requirement that the Senate act swiftly on articles of impeachment.
House Democrats had been talking in recent days about taking this unprecedented step after a historic vote on impeachment — this has never been done before. It remains to be seen which side this benefits.
Cover: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference after the House passed Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)