The Democrats will finally send the articles of Donald Trump’s impeachment to the Senate today – a moment swathed in ceremony and history but which will start an explosive and divisive trial which puts his presidency in the balance.
Nancy Pelosi expects to have the votes on the articles and approving the impeachment ‘managers’ – the House members who will prosecute the case against Trump – finished by around 5pm.
The vote, expected to be on a party line, marks the ‘engrossment’ of the articles, meaning the finalizing of their status as a legal document.
That will kick off a ceremony which has only been performed twice before for a president – and only once in living memory, when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998.
The Clerk of the House, Cheryl Johnson, and the Sergeant at Arms, Paul Irving, will lead the managers in procession through the Dome of the Capitol to the doors of the Senate. There they will be handed to the Secretary of the Senate, Julie Adams.
Astonishingly the moment of history will be barely recorded: the Senate is letting just one video camera be present, unlike in 1998, when it was captured by a photographer for posterity.
The formality and ceremony will end – at least in theory – the House’s involvement in the impeachment.
Instead it will start the trial of Donald Trump, a political high-wire act for all concerned which has the potential to rain destruction down on anyone even tangentially involved.
The way it was: In 1998 the House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde handed over the articles of Bill Clinton’s impeachment to Gary Sisco, the secretary of the Senate, with the other members of the committee looking on.
Moment of history: It took more than two weeks for the articles of Bill Clinton’s impeachment to be read to the Senate because of the Christmas holidays. The reading of Donald Trump’s articles is expected next week
Power move: Nancy Pelosi will oversee her most significant moment as Speaker, passing the articles of impeachment – what is know in legal terms as engrossment
Impeached: Donald Trump becomes only the third president to have a Senate trial, after Bill Clinton, who was tried in 1999, and Andrew Johnson in 1868
The drama begins at around 10 am when Pelosi names the House prosecutors who will make the case to senators that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate the son of political rival Joe Biden, and then obstructing Congress’ search for what happened.
Gaming out the ‘managers’ has been a hot avocation in the Capitol for months, and Pelosi has held the details close. But judging from the Clinton trial, the exposure is likely to boost the profiles of whomever she picks. Likely choices include the two chairmen who led the impeachment hearings, Intelligence’s Adam Schiff and Judiciary’s Jerrold Nadler.
Around lunchtime, she’ll speak on the floor and the House will vote to transmit the articles.
Later Wednesday, the whole prosecution team will line up behind House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, who will be holding the articles in folders. The procession will walk, two by two, through National Statuary Hall, past Pelosi’s office, across the Rotunda and to the doors of the SenateJohnson then hands the articles to Secretary of the Senate Julie E. Adams.
The managers will return to the House until the Senate admits them.
The Senate then considers some mundane-sounding details, as well as some historic ones, according to the precedent of Clinton’s impeachment trial.
First, they’ll consider resolutions on such things as how to arrange the chamber to accommodate the prosecution and defense teams, and who can watch from the galleries. Then, according to a memo circulated among senators, comes a series of formalities: the reception of the House managers.
By the end of the week, the managers are expected to exhibit the articles of impeachment. Roberts and the senators will take their oaths. And the senators will sign an oath book used since 1986 for presidential and judicial impeachment trials that has been stored at the National Archives.
When that finally happens, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, james Mathers will proclaim: ‘Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the articles of impeachment.’
Senate rules say the trial then begins, and run six days a week – not on Sunday – until it’s resolved. But senators could vote to change the schedule.
The night before the House vote, some indication of just how explosive the next few weeks could be came with the House Intelligence Committee releasing a new trove of information from Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born sidekick of Rudy Giuliani who is now indicted on felony charges.
In more than 30 pages of messages and image retrieved from one of Parnas’ devices, it revealed how Giuliani had written to Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Voldomyr Zelensky, saying that with the president’s ‘consent and knowledge’ he was requesting a meeting.
It also showed Parnas writing down the apparent details of a ‘deal’ to secure an investigation of ‘Biden’; Parnas pressing Giuliani to get a visa for an allegedly corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor and the attorney saying he had ‘No. 1 on it’; and Parnas and a fanatically pro-Trump Republican congressional candidate exchanging messages calling Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine a ‘b***h’ and suggesting her movements were being monitored.
In one message the would-be Congressman, Robert Hyde, told Parnas he had men watching her and said: ‘They are willing to help if we/you would like a price.’
Hyde, who has posed repeatedly with the president and given more than $50,000 to pro-Trump campaign groups at the same time as owning child support, said on twitter: ‘How low can liddle Adam Bull Schiff go? I was never in Kiev. For them to take some texts my buddy’s and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable. Schiff is a desperate turd playing with this Lev guy.’
The Parnas files may be the tip of an iceberg; the House Intelligence Committee has three of his devices.
The effect of a drip-drip of releasing their contents will be felt most by Senate Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he expects the Senate to begin the trial formally next week.
The Senate will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday and start the impeachment trial on Tuesday, McConnell announced. The Kentucky Republican added that the Senate will take some preliminary steps this week – most likely, swearing in John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to preside over the trial, and swearing in senators as jurors.
That takes at least a whole morning or afternoon, with each required to write their name in a ‘book of oaths’ promising that they will discharge their constitutional duty.
What happens next will be the reading of the articles, and then the first divisive moment: a debate on the rules.
McConnell predicted that the White House’s favored outcome, passage of a quick motion to dismiss the charges against the president, is unlikely.
‘There’s little or no sentiment for a motion to dismiss. We have an obligation to listen to the arguments,’ he told reporters.
His plan would mean an expedited process in which House managers would present their case for a total of 24 hours over four days. Trump’s defense would then get the same amount of time.
Another bombshell: The House Intelligence Committee revealed a May 10 letter from Giuliani to the Ukrainian president seeking a meeting with Trump’s ‘knowledge and consent’
The plot thickens: The House Intelligence Committee released information provided by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas showing his notes of a ‘deal’
More pressure: As Republicans prepared to vote on the rules for the trial, the Lev Parnas files revealed Robert Hyde, a party Congressional candidate and fanatical pro-Trump fan who appears to have golfed with the president, messaging Parnas about having a serving U.S. ambassador under surveillance and calling her a ‘b***h’
WhatsApp messages appear to show GOP congressional candidate Robert Hyde tracking the movements of U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch
Under the Republicans’ current plan, senators get to ask questions in writing of the managers, who read the answers to the floor, and when questions are exhausted, they vote on whether to convict and remove the president.
But that is bitterly opposed by the Democratic minority, and even before the Parnas revelations, some moderate Republican senators indicated that they would be interested in hearing from witnesses, particularly John Bolton, the former national security advisor who said he would testify if subpoenaed.
The Parnas files are likely to be seized on by Democrats to step up the pressure on the moderate Republicans.
Democrats need four Republicans to defect to force witnesses, and see Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, as their main targets.
But then there a series of other targets including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring; Cory Gardner of Colorado, whose state is turning rapidly blue; and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who is seen as having to move to the center in his re-election attempt in a state which is increasingly seen as going purple.
Tomorrow’s vote has been three weeks in the making since the House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with only Democrats supporting the motions.
Two voted against both articles – one of whom then swapped sides to become a Republican – and one voted for the first article but against the second.
Since then Pelosi held the articles to try to force a ‘fair trial,’ meaning one with witnesses, but McConnell crowed this week that she had achieved ‘nothing.’
She was defiant Tuesday, saying that both McConnell’s senators and the president are now on trial.
‘The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial. The House will now proceed with a vote on transmitting the articles of impeachment and naming impeachment managers on Wednesday, January 15. The President and the Senators will be held accountable,’ Pelosi wrote in a statement Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House will vote Wednesday to send impeachment articles to the Senate. She did not name the Democrats who would serve as impeachment managers for the trial
The announcement followed a caucus meeting Tuesday morning
Some speculate two of the impeachment managers could be House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (pictured)
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has still not said if the Senate will host witnesses in the trial, but claims they will hold a vote after opening arguments on if they should call individuals to testify
The House speaker was also expected on Tuesday to announce the names of lawmakers who will serve as ‘managers’ and prosecute the president. But no names were released.
Two Democrats thought to be front-runners for he jobs are Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment inquiry in the House, and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, whose committee approved the impeachment articles in December.
HOW IMPEACHMENT UNFOLDS NOW
Wednesday: Nancy Pelosi holds a vote on the House floor to approve transmitting the two articles of impeachment to the Senate. She also names the ‘managers’ who will prosecute the case for the Democrats
Thursday: The U.S. Senate receives the articles of impeachment. Mitch McConnell could move immediatelyl to a debate over the rules under which the trial will take place. He will also have to decide on the status of a motion, which he signed on to himself, calling for a rapid dismissal of the articles of impeachment without a trial. It is unknown whether that motion will be voted on or not.
Friday: Senators leave Washington D.C. for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend
Monday: Congress observes MLK Day
Tuesday: Opening arguments could begin in the trial as Donald Trump heads to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum
Pelosi met with her Democratic caucus Tuesday morning to decide a path forward. The caucus decided a House vote Wednesday would finalize the transmission of the twin articles to McConnell’s chamber.
‘In December, the House upheld its Constitutional duty to defend democracy For The People: passing two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,’ Pelosi continued in her statement Tuesday.
‘The Senate GOP Leader has signed on to a dismissal resolution. A dismissal is a cover-up,’ she said.
Waiting until Wednesday allows Democratic presidential candidates who debated in Iowa on Tuesday night, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, to retain the spotlight and come back to Washington in the morning.
The three will be sworn in as jurors this week. An extended trial could include six days of hearings per week, and would take them off the campaign trail for as long as the Republican McConnell wants.
It isn’t clear yet how long the trial will last.
McConnell is readying a resolution to set out the rules of the impeachment trial which will be debated on Tuesday.
Republican Senators Susan Collins (left) and Mitt Romney (right) have said they will likely vote to hear from witnesses after opening arguments. They also foiled the White House’s plan to request a resolution to dismiss the case, claiming they would not vote to approve
There are a handful of Republicans who disagree with McConnell and Graham’s approach for a speedy trial, and claim they want to hear from witnesses.
‘I have been working for and advocating that we follow that model. And that we have language in the governing [rules] setting up the parameters of the trial that would allow for a vote on whether or not we should have witnesses subpoenaed and documented provided,’ moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins told reporters Monday evening.
Tennessee GOP Senator Lamar Alexander says he might vote to hear witnesses
‘I might not. Or I might,’ the senator, who is retiring at the end of the year, said.
‘My view is we should hear the case, ask our questions and then have a vote on whether we need to hear additional witnesses or call for additional documents,’ Alexander said. ‘It’s important to have a vote on whether we have witnesses or not.’
But Senator Rand Paul warned his colleagues that they can’t be selective on witnesses if they approve to hear from them.
‘Don’t think you can just vote for Bolton and not the witnesses Trump wants,’ Paul told senators at a party lunch last week, two attendees told Politico.
He suggested he would push for Hunter Biden to be called.
‘I’m not going to be voting for witnesses prior to the opening arguments. But I presume I’ll be voting for that after,’ another moderate Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, told reporters.
Romney has publicly feuded with Trump in the past.
The White House is also preparing its defense of Trump with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow expected to hold speaking roles in the trial.
Trump’s counsel is also pushing for the Senate to include in the rules of its impeachment resolution an option that would swiftly dismiss the charges against the president. The motion would require 51 votes and, if passed, would end the trial.
Both Collins and Romney claim they will not vote to immediately dismiss the trial – and since Republicans have 53 seats and 51 are required to approve motions, the resolution will not pass.
Trump’s defense strategy for the Senate impeachment trial is underway with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone set to take the lead and deliver opening arguments.
Although the Republican majority upper chamber has not yet voted on if it will call witnesses, Cipollone will also participate in any cross examinations should any individuals end up testifying.
Cipollone’s deputies, Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin, will also be stationed at Trump’s defense in the Senate and Purpura, along with Trump’s personal attorney Jay Seklow, are expected to participate in any cross examinations of witnesses.
‘If there are witnesses, he’s going to crush some people,’ a former senior Trump adviser said about Cipollone.
Sekulow is the longest-serving member of Trump’s personal legal team. He is expected to make his own trial presentation focused more on the Ukraine scandal.
As Cipollone, 54, takes center stage at the upcoming Senate impeachment hearing, the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, 75, who has been lobbying to join the impeachment legal team, will be left on the side lines.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (pictured) will take lead as Donald Trump’s defense in the Senate impeachment trial
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, despite lobbying for a position with the defense, will be sidelined for the impeachment hearing. Giuliani could potentially be a witness in the trial should Republicans vote to call individuals to testify
Giuliani, the former Republican mayor of New York City, has become a central figure in the impeachment proceedings regarding his dealings with Ukraine.
A few officials claimed Giuliani has pressed the president to make him part of the legal team who will argue on the Senate floor against Trump’s removal from office.
Giuliani has been one of Trump’s most staunch defenders, taking to TV dozens of times in the aftermath of the anonymous whistle-blower complaint that launched the impeachment investigation.
The attorney has been noticeably more absent from speaking on TV as Trump’s surrogate lately.
Giuliani has made the case that he knows the details surrounding the charges being levied against the President inside-out.
He also has publicly indicated he has an interest in getting involved in the case.
‘I would love to try the case,’ Giuliani told reporters while attending the President’s Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party.
An informal adviser told the Huffington Post in an interview published Monday that Giuliani has been ‘working Trump hard’ to be included among the lawyers who will defend him.
Another source told CNN that Trump has been advised against tapping Giuliani to join the legal team, especially due to the attorney’s involvement in some issues close to the Genesis of the impeachment inquiry.
‘The President is never going to have him in the Senate trial, starting with the problem that he’s a potential witness,’ the source close to Trump said.
READ THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST DONALD TRUMP
In 1,414 words, the articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives Wednesday lay out two charges against President Donald Trump.
Article I: Abuse of Power
Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.
Accused: Donald Trump has two articles of impeachment against him
He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.
President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.’
Article II: Obstruction of Congress
As part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials.
In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment — and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.