December 23, 2019
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) has put herself in an untenable position by stalling House-passed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House tried to make the case on Sunday (Dec 22) that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put herself in an untenable position by stalling House-passed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in hopes of shaping the upcoming Senate trial.
A senior administration official suggested the top Democrat in Congress would soon relent, paving the way for leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate to settle on the contours of a trial that is likely to result in Mr Trump’s acquittal on charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
An influential senator and key Trump ally predicted that the drive by Ms Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for new witnesses and testimony would be for naught.
“She will yield. There’s no way she can hold this position,” said Mr Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice-President Mike Pence. “We think her case is going nowhere.”
The House voted last week to impeach Mr Trump, who became only the third president in US history to be formally charged with “high crimes and misdemeanors”.
Ms Pelosi has declined to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until Republicans provide details on witnesses and testimony.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Mr Schumer have been at an impasse over the issue, leaving open the possibility of a protracted delay until the articles are delivered.
Mr McConnell appears ready to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 trial of then President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted of two articles of impeachment.
That trial featured a 100-0 vote on arrangements that established two weeks of presentations and argument before a partisan tally in which then minority Republicans called a limited number of witnesses.
Mr Short called Ms Pelosi’s delay unacceptable, saying she’s “trampling” Mr Trump’s rights to “rush this through, and now we’re going to hold it up to demand a longer process in the Senate with more witnesses”.
“If her case is so air-tight… why does she need more witnesses to make her case?” Mr Short said.
Mr McConnell has all but promised an easy acquittal of the President, and appears to have united Republicans behind an approach that would begin the trial with presentations and arguments, lasting perhaps two weeks, before he tries drawing the proceedings to a close.
That has sparked a fight with Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer, who are demanding trial witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
A close Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, said Ms Pelosi would fail in her quest “to get Mitch Mcconnell to bend to her will to shape the trial”.
Republican Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was a House manager, comparable to a prosecutor, during the Senate’s impeachment trial of Mr Clinton.
“She’ll eventually send the articles because public opinion will crush the Democrats,” said Mr Graham.
Asked whether he expected witnesses in the Senate, he replied: “No, I don’t.”
The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Mr Dick Durbin of Illinois, said his party is looking for a signal from Mr McConnell that he has not ruled out new witnesses and documents. But Mr Durbin acknowledged that Democrats may not have much leverage in pushing a deal.
He criticised both Republican and Democratic senators who have already announced how they will vote in the trial, saying the Constitution requires senators to act as impartial jurors. Republicans hold a 53-vote majority in the Senate.
“The leverage is our hope that four Republican senators will stand up, as 20 years ago, we saw in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and say, this is much bigger than our current political squabbles,” Mr Durbin said.