WASHINGTON ― Senate Democrats are signaling they’re ready to begin President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to withhold the articles of impeachment in her standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the rules governing the proceedings.
“I think if we’re going to do it, we should do it. I don’t think there’s much more to be gained [by delaying the impeachment trial], but that’s just my view,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told HuffPost on Wednesday.
In a letter to her colleagues on Tuesday, Pelosi said she wants to see how the Senate plans to run Trump’s trial before she transmits the articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The gambit is part of a Democratic effort to ensure that the GOP-led Senate runs a fair trial that includes witnesses like John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser.
McConnell, however, made it clear he has the votes to move forward with the trial without support from Democrats, who demanded that he first commit to including witness testimony and documents in the proceedings. The Kentucky Republican said a decision on including witness testimony will come after the trial begins.
“Speaker Pelosi wanted ‘leverage’ to reach into the Senate and dictate our trial proceedings to us. I’ve made clear from the beginning that no such ‘leverage’ exists. It’s nonexistent. And yesterday we made it clear it will never exist,” McConnell said in a floor speech on Wednesday.
The weekslong standoff between the two leaders seems to be coming to an end, however, and several Senate Democrats said they expected the proceedings to begin shortly.
“My gut tells me we’ll be in an impeachment trial fairly soon,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said.
Sen. Chirs Murphy (D-Conn.) said he believed Democrats’ “greatest leverage exists inside the trial” on motions they will call on producing witnesses and documents. Democrats will need at least four Republicans to vote with them if they are to subpoena witnesses and produce documents pertaining to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine,) who caucuses with Democrats, agreed.
“I think it is time for the speaker to send the articles over. I think ― I don’t think her holding them puts any particular pressure on Mitch McConnell. I think the key vote will come in the middle of the trial,” he said in an MSNBC interview on Tuesday.
In a floor speech on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed that Republican senators wouldn’t be able to avoid a decision on witness testimony regardless of their support for McConnell’s strategy to begin proceedings.
“I want to make one thing very clear: There will be votes — repeated votes — on the question of witnesses and documents at the trial. The initial votes will not be the last votes on the matter. Republicans can delay it, but they cannot avoid it,” Schumer said.
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