WASHINGTON ― A day after the House impeached President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appears no closer to sending the actual articles of impeachment over to the Senate, for the moment indulging a gambit where the House holds back on advancing the impeachment to the Senate until GOP leaders agree to a fair trial.
Pelosi was evasive Thursday morning, telling reporters she couldn’t name managers for a trial in the Senate without knowing what such a trial would look like. “We don’t know what arena we’re in,” Pelosi said.
She added that the next step would be seeing the process that is “set forth” in the Senate. “We’d like to see a fair process, but we’ll see what they have, and we’ll be ready for whatever it is,” Pelosi said.
While the House adopted two impeachment articles, lawmakers still need to adopt another resolution to actually send them to the Senate. When reporters pressed Pelosi Thursday for further details about holding back the impeachment articles, she refused to answer any more questions.
“I said what I was going to say,” Pelosi said, eventually feigning outrage when reporters asked her to clear up the confusion.
“Any other questions on any other ― anyone want to talk about the Mexico free trade agreement?” Pelosi asked. “Anybody care about that? Jobs for the American people, progress and addressing globalism and the issues? Anybody want to talk about the SALT tax that we’re passing today, important issues that relate to the economic vitality of our communities? Any other questions? Because I’m not going to answer any more questions on this.”
It seems likely that Pelosi refused to respond in part because she knows her position is untenable. As much as Democrats would like assurances that the Senate will give the impeachment articles a fair trial, there’s no requirement that it does so. And House Democrats don’t have much negotiating power.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that it was “beyond me” why Pelosi believes she has any leverage.
“It’s like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial,” McConnell said during a floor speech. “They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they’re content to sit on their hands. It is comical.”
Democrats, of course, are not second-guessing whether they want to have a trial in the Senate. What they want are assurances that McConnell will actually give the articles of impeachment a trial ― let alone a fair one.
McConnell is supposed to meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday to discuss the parameters of Senate debate, but McConnell has made it clear he could adopt rules on a party-line vote to acquit Trump of wrongdoing without a single witness testifying.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” McConnell said earlier this week. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.”
It’s understandable why Democrats have concerns about McConnell’s idea of a Senate trial. McConnell has admitted he’s coordinating with the White House, and he’s suggested he’s trying to serve Trump’s interests.
That’s obviously a problem for Democrats, and there isn’t a clear solution.
Pelosi and Schumer are hoping that by holding on to the articles, they can have at least some say in the process. But McConnell has indicated he’s perfectly content not to act on impeachment if it’s never sent to the Senate.
The only potential leverage Democrats have is that Trump may not want to be impeached in the House and then have Republican Senators do nothing in response. But that might not be very compelling for McConnell.
In essence, Democrats are bluffing ― McConnell thinks so, and Pelosi knows she may have to cave. Democrats may have to send over the articles of impeachment just to force Republicans to take a vote. By remaining evasive on the subject, however, Pelosi is giving herself some latitude as Schumer negotiates.