House Democrats on Wednesday formally shifted the impeachment of President Trump to the Senate, delivering a pair of impeachment articles to the upper chamber and effectively launching the trial to determine whether the president will remain in office.
In a ceremonial procession, seven designated Democrats, known as impeachment managers, silently marched the two articles across the Capitol — a short promenade through the old House chamber, beneath the soaring Rotunda, past the legendary Ohio Clock and on to the Senate.
Accompanying the lawmakers were Paul Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms, and Cheryl Johnson, the House clerk. Lining the way was an army of reporters and photographers grappling for a glimpse of history behind red velvet-covered stanchions.
The exceedingly rare ritual — Trump is just the third U.S. president to be impeached — sets up the Senate to receive the two impeachment resolutions after weeks of delay. Passed by the House on Dec. 18, the articles charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in his dealings with Ukrainian leaders last year.
Behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate GOP leaders are scheduled to accept the articles officially on Thursday at noon, and the formal trial in the august upper chamber is slated to begin “in earnest” on Tuesday, McConnell announced.
McConnell has not said how long it will run, but GOP senators are predicting it won’t be over before Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address on Feb. 4.
Democrats voted hours earlier to send the charges to the Senate and name the seven members — hand-picked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who will serve as impeachment managers for the trial, ending a weeks-long standoff between the two chambers.
“When the managers walk down the hallway, they cross a threshold of history,” Pelosi said, just before signing the resolution to transmit the articles to the Senate.
On the wall behind Pelosi hung a massive painting of George Washington, extending an empty hand. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), who was among the dozens of Democratic lawmakers making a rare appearance in the audience of a press event, theorized what the nation’s first president might have said were he in the room: “Give me the pen; I’ll sign it,” Vargas quipped.
Earlier in the day, Pelosi had predicted public sentiment would shift behind the Democrats’ impeachment effort and force the hand of GOP senators.
“We have great confidence in terms of impeaching the president and his removal,” Pelosi said in announcing her prosecutorial team.
The ongoing partisan trench lines were on display for the House vote, with 227 Democrats supporting the resolution and 192 Republicans opposing it. Only one lawmaker, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), crossed party lines, highlighting the deep-rooted partisan divisions that have followed the impeachment process from its inception in September.
That discord is expected to carry on in the Senate, where McConnell and other GOP leaders have clashed for weeks with Democrats in both chambers over the rules governing the impeachment trial. Amid that fight, Pelosi took a political gamble and held on to the articles as leverage to pressure McConnell into allowing witnesses and other new evidence to be considered as part of the process.
The emergence of new evidence has heightened the pressure on Senate Republicans to allow new witnesses and evidence to be presented — a dynamic not overlooked by the Democrats leading the impeachment charge.
“Additional evidence continues to come to light that not only has bolstered an already overwhelming case, but has also put additional pressure ... on the Senate to conduct a fair trial,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who will lead the team of Democratic prosecutors.
The biggest wave of calls was triggered when former national security adviser John Bolton announced a new willingness to testify about the Trump administration’s contacts with Ukrainian officials if subpoenaed by the GOP-controlled Senate, prompting calls for his testimony.
Democrats won a near-term victory on Wednesday, when McConnell — who has been cold to the idea of calling any witnesses — agreed to a rules package that leaves open the potential for new witnesses to appear. Anything less, Democrats have charged, would be a dereliction of the Senate’s duty.
“If the Senate doesn’t allow new evidence, then they’re conducting a coverup,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the seven impeachment managers. “In any trial — any trial — by definition you have the evidence.”
The other Democrats winning impeachment manager spots were Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; Val Demings (Fla.), a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence panels; and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), a senior member of the Judiciary panel and the only member of Congress to have participated in both the Nixon and Clinton impeachments.
The two lawmakers to fill out the roster — Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), and Jason Crow (D-Colo.) — were somewhat out of the blue. Both are freshmen, and Crow, a former Army Ranger, does not sit on any of the six committees with jurisdiction over impeachment.
Rather, some of the members named to high-profile roles were even surprised themselves.
Garcia, when asked by reporters whether she was surprised to be picked, replied: “It was a pleasant surprise.”
In making the announcement, Pelosi touted the legal bona fides of her picks, saying their experience before entering Congress was an outsize factor in her decisionmaking.
“The emphasis is on litigators; the emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom,” Pelosi said during a press conference in the Capitol. “The emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution.”
The managers’ involvement in the Senate trial comes with high stakes.
“It is their responsibility to present the very strong case for the President’s impeachment and removal,” Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday morning.