The latest on President Trump's impeachment
The House, which approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump last month, has yet to send the articles to the Senate.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has signaled she will send the articles to the Senate this week, but exact timing on the next steps is still unclear.
Here's what we know so far about what will happen this week:
- Tomorrow: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with House Democrats. We could learn more afterward about the timing around sending the impeachment articles to the Senate and the resolution to name the impeachment managers.
- Mid-week: The House is expected to name the impeachment managers who will be the prosecutors representing the House in the Senate impeachment trial. This could come as early as tomorrow. But the Speaker has played things close to her chest and she is able to call up the resolution naming the managers at any time.
- After that: The managers will walk over to the Senate and read the articles of impeachment out loud.
- Then, in the Senate: Formal impeachment trial proceedings will begin. Members of the Senate will be sworn into office, and they will swear in the chief justice, John Roberts, who presides over the proceedings.
- So, when will the trial start? Nothing is set in stone, but with MLK Day next Monday and the series of procedural steps that must take place before the trial begins, a good guess is that opening arguments will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her delay in sending the impeachment case to the Senate, saying the Senate won’t “reopen” case for the House.
“We will fulfill our constitutional duty. We will honor the reason for which the founders created this body: To ensure our institutions and our Republic can rise above short-term factional fever," he said in a statement.
He added that the Senate is "ready."
"The House has done enough damage. The Senate is ready to fulfill our duty."
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a retiring Tennessee Republican and McConnell confidante, told CNN he's open to witnesses at the impeachment trial.
But he said that a vote needs to occur after opening arguments and senators' questions about whether to secure witness testimony.
"Yes, I am," Alexander said when asked if he's open to witnesses. "What I think is important is we have a vote on whether we need additional documents and witnesses. And that would only be appropriate after we've heard the case and asked our questions."
Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Mitch McConnell's leadership team, said this of the talk of adding House Republicans to Trump's legal team:
"I think the President is entitled to a defense counsel of his choosing. My advice to him would be: Let's not infect the Senate trial with the circus-like atmosphere of the House. And I think there would be an increased risk of doing that if you start inviting House members to come over to the Senate and try the case."
Cornyn also downplayed Trump's tweet over the weekend calling for a quick dismissal. "There's constant communication going on. And different times, the President has expressed different views. I wouldn't get too distracted by an intervening tweet."
Cornyn said he would prefer a vote to acquit the President on the merits, rather than a quick vote to dismiss the charges. "That would be my advice. Let both sides have their say and have their vote."
A new national poll from Quinnipiac University found that 51% of voters approve of the House's vote to impeach Trump, and 46% say they think the Senate should vote to remove Trump from office.
Voters narrowly disapprove of Nancy Pelosi’s decision to hold the articles of impeachment until she knew more about how the Senate would conduct the trial: 48% disapprove, 44% approve.
Two-thirds, or 66%, say they would like to see John Bolton testify in a Senate impeachment trial, including 91% of Democrats, 71% of independents and 39% of Republicans.
The White House is urging Senate Republicans to preserve the option of moving to swiftly dismiss the charges against President Trump after opening arguments in his impeachment trial, as GOP leaders and Trump's team look for a quick end to the proceedings, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Republicans are debating including in the Senate resolution, which would govern the rules of the trial, a provision to dismiss the charges, something that would require 51 votes and would stop the trial in its tracks.
But moving ahead with a dismissal vote could put Republicans up for reelection in a tough spot if they are seen as moving too quickly to dismiss the case. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not afford to lose more than two votes — and GOP sources say the Kentucky Republican currently does not have enough votes to simply dismiss the case.
McConnell has made clear to his colleagues that he wants Trump to emerge victorious in the trial and is not willing to hold a vote that could fail, sources said. He’s also keenly aware of what a vote to dismiss would look like politically, according to Republican senators, and has shepherded his conference away from the idea for several weeks.
The White House wants to keep the motion to dismiss in play because “there’s no reason to take options off the table at the beginning of the whole process,” one source familiar with the discussions said.
No final decisions have been made yet about whether close House allies of the President’s will be a part of Trump’s defense team on the floor of the Senate, according to an official familiar.
But, behind the scenes, many in leadership have made the case that including firebrands like Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan or Doug Collins may not work in the President’s favor when trying to appeal to moderate Republicans to acquit him.
“My personal recommendation would be not to include the House members. The House has its role. The Senate has its role, and I think the President will be well-represented by Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Sekulow,” one GOP senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal GOP thinking, told CNN Monday. “The impetus for my view is we don’t want to have a continuation of the circus in the House. We would like to try and do our job with what dignity we have left.”
More on this: The decision the President's defense team is struggling with is its audience. The argument against including the firebrand House members in the impeachment trial is that it could alienate the moderate Republicans they need on their side in order to wrap the trial up quickly. But the argument for including the President's most ardent defenders lies in what he considers the most important: vindicating him in the nation's eyes
Trump has pushed for his fiercest protectors to be included because he believes they will be the best at arguing against the two charges against him.
Attorney Stephen Castor and Rep. Jim Jordan are going to the White House today to meet with the President’s lawyers about the upcoming impeachment trial, a person familiar said.
Castor — House Republicans’ counsel during the impeachment inquiry — has been briefing President Trump’s lawyers about the details of the case and met with them last week at the White House as well. The trial prep meeting comes as Trump’s legal team is finalizing the substance of its defense, with aides expecting the trial to begin next week.
Trump is not expected to participate directly in today’s meeting but the person familiar said it is always possible the President could summon Jordan once he knows his friend is at the White House today.
Several senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they would not exactly be impartial jurors ahead of Trump's looming impeachment trial. McConnell said back in December he had met with White House attorneys to coordinate on the trial.
Is it required for senators to be impartial? This is, after all, a political exercise.
Actually, yes. Article II of the Constitution leaves a lot of the details of an impeachment trial up to the Senate, but it does make clear that no impeached president can be removed unless two-thirds of senators — usually 67 — agree and also that when sitting for an impeachment trial, "they shall be on Oath or Affirmation."
What's the oath senators will take?
The oath, which senators must take before trying an impeachment case, is spelled out in Rule XXV of the Senate's rules on impeachment and specifically mentions impartiality:
"I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of (the person on trial), now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws; So help me God."
Keep in mind: There is some wiggle room here, maybe, since McConnell says he won't be "an impartial juror," not that he won't be doing "impartial justice according to the Constitution," which he will presumably swear to do.