Minutes after the House impeached President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw uncertainty into the process by refusing to say, repeatedly, when or whether she would send two articles to the Senate for a trial.
Pelosi's comments came after Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News' Sean Hannity last week that during a Senate trial, "Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this."
McConnell added, "We’ll be working through this process ... in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people representing the president in the well of the Senate."
Her comments came as a surprise in a news conference late Wednesday that was intended to express Democrats’ somber closing message after voting to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. She started by praising her fellow Democrats for having “moral courage” and said it was “a great day for the Constitution of the United States of America.”
But then she declined to say when she would send the articles to the Republican-led Senate. Until the articles are submitted, the Senate cannot hold the trial that is nearly certain to acquit the president.
The Bulwark's Charlie Sykes wrote on Monday that "This is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s final card to play" and cautioned that if Trump is quickly exonerated by the U.S. Senate he will be effectively be unchecked as the impeachment, the last Congressional check on his power, will have been taken off the table.
Pelosi said House Democrats could not name impeachment managers — House prosecutors who make the case for Trump’s conviction and removal from office — until they know more about how the Senate will conduct a trial.
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“We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Pelosi said. “And I would hope that that will be soon. ... So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected a proposal earlier this week from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to call several witnesses. McConnell also said that he is coordinating with the White House and declared that “I am not an impartial juror.”
Pelosi said that McConnell “says it’s OK for the foreman of the jury to be in cahoots with the lawyers of the accused. That doesn’t sound right to us.”
Schumer and Pelosi are set to meet Thursday morning, according to a person familiar with the planning who was not authorized to discuss the private meeting.
Asked again if she could guarantee that she would send the articles to the Senate, Pelosi said at the news conference: “That would have been our intention.” But they will see what the Senate decides, she said.
“We are not having that discussion. We have done what we set out to do,” Pelosi said.
An aide to McConnell said he did not have an immediate comment on Pelosi’s remarks. But he tweeted that McConnell would speak about “House Democrats’ precedent-breaking impeachment of the President of the United States” on Thursday morning.
Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, said after her remarks that Democrats want impeachment proceedings that are “judicious and responsible and deliberative.”
He said that while Senate will decide its own procedures, “the speaker’s only point is before she sends it over she needs to understand what that is” because it will influence who the impeachment managers are.
Asked about never sending the articles over, Cicilline said, “I would not speculate that anyone’s even contemplating that.”