After an extended period of gamesmanship between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell involving the former’s decision on when to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate, and the latter’s resistance to Democratic demands that witnesses be heard in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, Pelosi is now making her move, as reported by the Washington Post:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Friday that the House next week will consider a resolution to appoint impeachment managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate, setting the stage for a historic trial of President Trump.
Her announcement, in a letter to Democratic colleagues, came shortly after the House ended its work week without taking a vote on the matter. As recently as Thursday, Pelosi continued to insist that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should release a resolution laying out rules of a trial before the articles were transmitted.
So McConnell was right in telling his troops yesterday that a trial could begin quite soon, but wrong in suggesting the House might send over the articles of impeachment today, triggering a trial as soon as Monday.
The articles themselves authorized the appointment of impeachment managers, but apparently Pelosi wants to be precise in taking this step, and is thus asking for a specific resolution. The identity of the managers is no mere honorary detail: They will make the House’s case in the Senate trial for the president’s removal. And for all the talk of “transmittal” of the articles triggering a Senate trial, it’s actually the presentation of the articles by the managers that sets a trial in motion. So even after Pelosi’s resolution passes, there could be some time lapse before her managers march across the Capitol and present themselves to the Senate.
It’s even possible — though this is pure speculation on my part — that the House resolution in question will make actual presentation of the articles contingent on McConnell meeting Pelosi’s demand for advance publication of his proposed rules for the trial. If that happens, we’re right back to square one.
If that’s not the case, and the House moves with all deliberate speed to appoint managers and present the articles to the Senate, the trial could presumably start during the week of January 20. Democrats will likely shift to a new strategy for trying to force McConnell (or perhaps even the presiding officer in the trial, Chief Justice John Roberts) to call witnesses or allow other forms of new evidence against Trump. Only then will we know how long the trial might last. Unless Pelosi plans to stall the process again next week, it looks like the trial will significantly inconvenience the Democratic senators (five at present) running for president, though it won’t mess up next Tuesday’s debate in Des Moines.