House set to vote on impeachmen­t

Vote Wed­nes­day to send impeachmen­t ar­ti­cles to Se­nate

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - BY LISA MAS­CARO, ALAN FRAM AND MARY CLARE JALONICK

Ar­ti­cles will be sent to Se­nate to de­ter­mine if charges against Pres­i­dent Trump are grounds for re­moval.

WASH­ING­TON — The U.S. House is set to vote Wed­nes­day to send the ar­ti­cles of impeachmen­t against Pres­i­dent Donald Trump to the Se­nate for a land­mark trial on whether the charges of abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of Congress are grounds for re­moval.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi an­nounced the next steps af­ter meet­ing pri­vately with House Democrats at the Capi­tol, end­ing her block­ade Tues­day a month af­ter they voted to im­peach Trump.

It will be only the third pres­i­den­tial impeachmen­t trial in Amer­i­can his­tory, a se­ri­ous mo­ment com­ing amid the back­drop of a po­lit­i­cally di­vided na­tion and an elec­tion year.

“The Pres­i­dent and the Sen­a­tors will be held ac­count­able,” Pelosi said in a state­ment. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve the truth, and the Con­sti­tu­tion demands a trial.”

The Se­nate is ex­pected to trans­form into an impeachmen­t court as early as Thurs­day. The Con­sti­tu­tion calls for the chief jus­tice to pre­side over sen­a­tors, who serve as ju­rors, to swear an oath to de­liver “im­par­tial jus­tice.”

The House man­agers will walk the ar­ti­cles across the Capi­tol in a dramatic pro­ces­sion af­ter the vote.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell said Tues­day the chief jus­tice would open the trial this week, but that the sig­nif­i­cant pro­ceed­ings would launch next Tues­day, af­ter the Martin Luther King Jr. hol­i­day.

Trump was im­peached by the Demo­cratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over push­ing Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate Demo­cratic ri­val Joe Bi­den as the pres­i­dent with­held aid from the coun­try, and ob­struct­ing Congress’ en­su­ing probe.

McCon­nell met be­hind closed doors Tues­day with GOP sen­a­tors who are un­der pres­sure from Democrats to call new wit­nesses and tes­ti­mony. He urged them to hold to­gether on the next steps, ac­cord­ing to a per­son unau­tho­rized to dis­cuss the pri­vate ses­sion and granted anonymity.

Late Tues­day, House investigat­ors an­nounced they were turn­ing over a “trove” of new records of phone calls, text mes­sages and other in­for­ma­tion from Lev Par­nas, an as­so­ciate of Trump lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani. In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff said the in­for­ma­tion shows Trump’s ef­fort “to co­erce Ukraine into help­ing the Pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion cam­paign.”

He said this and other new tes­ti­mony must be in­cluded in the Se­nate trial.

McCon­nell, who is ne­go­ti­at­ing rules for the trial pro­ceed­ings, said all 53 GOP sen­a­tors are on board with his plan to start the ses­sion and con­sider the is­sue of wit­nesses later.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans also sig­naled they would re­ject the idea of sim­ply vot­ing to dis­miss the ar­ti­cles of impeachmen­t against Trump, as the pres­i­dent has sug­gested. McCon­nell agreed he does not have the votes to do that.

“There is lit­tle or no sen­ti­ment in the Re­pub­li­can con­fer­ence for a mo­tion to dis­miss,” McCon­nell said. “Our mem­bers feel we have an obli­ga­tion to lis­ten to the ar­gu­ments.”

A mount­ing num­ber of sen­a­tors say they want to en­sure the ground rules in­clude the pos­si­bil­ity of call­ing new wit­nesses.

Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine is lead­ing an ef­fort among some Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Mitt Rom­ney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for wit­ness votes.

“My po­si­tion is that there should be a vote on whether or not wit­nesses should be called,” Collins said.

Rom­ney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser at the White House, who oth­ers have said raised alarms about the al­ter­na­tive for­eign pol­icy to­ward Ukraine be­ing run by Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani.

Democrats have been push­ing Repub­li­cans, who have a 53-47 Se­nate ma­jor­ity, to con­sider new tes­ti­mony, ar­gu­ing that fresh in­for­ma­tion has emerged dur­ing Pelosi’s month­long de­lay in trans­mit­ting the charges.

“We want the truth,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer said Tues­day as the cham­ber opened. He said that in other pres­i­den­tial impeachmen­t tri­als the Se­nate called wit­nesses. “Do Se­nate Repub­li­cans want to break the lengthy his­tor­i­cal prece­dent?”

Repub­li­cans are all but cer­tain to ac­quit Trump. It takes 51 votes dur­ing the impeachmen­t trial to ap­prove rules or call wit­nesses. Just four GOP sen­a­tors could form a ma­jor­ity with Democrats to in­sist on new tes­ti­mony. It also would take 51 sen­a­tors to vote to dis­miss the charges against Trump.

At the pri­vate GOP lunch, Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky warned that if wit­nesses are al­lowed, de­fense wit­nesses could also be called. He and other Repub­li­cans want to sub­poena Bi­den and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of Burisma, a gas com­pany in Ukraine, while his fa­ther was vice pres­i­dent.

McCon­nell is draft­ing an or­ga­niz­ing res­o­lu­tion that will out­line the steps ahead. Ap­prov­ing it will be among their first votes of the trial, likely next Tues­day.

He prefers to model Trump’s trial partly on the process used for then-Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s trial in 1999. It, too, con­tained mo­tions for dis­missal or call­ing new wit­nesses.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/GETTY-AFP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “the Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve the truth, and the Con­sti­tu­tion demands a trial.”

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