House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began to drag her feet again Sunday after caving to bipartisan pressure to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, raising new questions about when the trial against the president could begin in the upper chamber.
Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said Friday that she would transmit the articles to the Senate early this week, but she was not specific Sunday about when her chamber would formally send the charges to the upper chamber. She said only that she would discuss the timing with her members at their Tuesday meeting.
“We will determine in our meeting when we send them over. But it — we have never — I have always said I would send them over. So there shouldn’t be any mystery to that,” she said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
She suggested that the House could subpoena former White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton to testify if Senate Republicans don’t have him come forward during their trial, leaving the door open for House Democrats to continue their impeachment crusade.
The speaker’s delay could cause headaches for a handful of Senate Democrats who are vying for their party’s presidential nomination.
They are expected to be jurors in the trial once it begins, frequently taking them off the campaign trail for the Iowa caucuses, which are only 22 days away. President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial took more than a month from start to finish.
Once the House sends the two articles of impeachment to the upper chamber, it will end an unprecedented standoff in proceedings against the president and give a win to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
Mrs. Pelosi has been holding on to the articles for more than three weeks in an attempt to negotiate procedures for a “fair” trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for Mr. McConnell to agree to more witness testimony, but the majority leader insists on using the same rules from Mr. Clinton’s 1999 trial, when witness testimony was debated later in the proceedings.
According to a letter Mrs. Pelosi sent Friday to House members, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, is tasked with preparing a resolution naming impeachment managers to formally send the articles to the Senate. The House is expected to vote on the resolution sometime this week.
That could put the start of the trial later in the week or even next week.
House Democrats voted Dec. 18. to impeach the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from a July phone call in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president for an investigation into a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. The president is accused of using military aid and an official White House visit as leverage.
In a press conference Thursday, Mrs. Pelosi said the Republicans hadn’t made the trial process clear.
“I said from the start, we need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?” she said.
She told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the standoff puts increasing public pressure on Mr. McConnell to allow more evidence and witnesses to be presented at trial.
She pointed to Mr. Bolton’s recent announcement that he would testify in the impeachment trial if he receives a Senate subpoena.
“Now, the ball is in their court to either do that or pay the price,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which spearheaded the investigation into Mr. Trump’s impeachment, suggested during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Mr. Bolton’s testimony should be left to the Senate, not pursued by the House.
Mr. McConnell has refused to yield. He announced last week that he had secured the votes to move ahead with a process like that in the Clinton trial, guaranteeing no witness testimony to the Democrats.
In the 1999 proceeding, House prosecutors and a White House defense team presented their cases and answered questions from senators before the chamber decided whether to hear from additional witnesses. The Senate approved the rules unanimously.
It takes 51 votes to call a witness. Republicans hold 53 seats, and the Democratic caucus holds 47.
House Democrats argue that the Republicans aren’t honoring the Clinton model in this situation because the Democratic president was investigated by a special counsel for over a year and that some officials called for testimony in the Trump case did not cooperate.
“The fact is, is that the president of the United States, again, quite different from President Clinton. President Clinton allowed witnesses to come forward. President Trump has prevented that from happening,” Mrs. Pelosi told ABC.
Despite announcing she will send the articles to Mr. McConnell’s chamber without a guarantee of more witnesses, Mrs. Pelosi presented her standoff as a win to her House colleagues.
She said more evidence against the president was revealed during the impasse, including emails related to the withholding of military aid after Mr. Trump’s request to the Ukrainian president and Mr. Bolton’s announcement suggesting he is open to sharing new information.
“For weeks now, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been engaged in tactics of delay in presenting transparency, disregard for the American people’s interest for a fair trial and dismissal of the facts,” Mrs. Pelosi wrote in her letter to Democrats.
“In an impeachment trial, every senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution,” she added.
Mr. Trump took to Twitter to suggest that Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schiff should be called as witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial.
“Why did Nervous Nancy allow corrupt politician Shifty Schiff to lie before Congress? He must be a Witness, and so should she!” the president tweeted.
The president tweeted earlier Sunday that Mrs. Pelosi should be asked during her interview on ABC’s “This Week” why Mr. Schiff recited a parody during the House impeachment hearing of the president’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, attempting to make it sound like a conversation out of the mobster movie “The Godfather.”
“George @GStephanopoulos, ask Crazy Nancy why she allowed Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to totally make up my conversation with the Ukrainian President & read his false words to Congress and the world, as though I said it? He got caught! Ask why hearing was most unfair & biased in history?” the president tweeted.
The ABC host did ask Mrs. Pelosi about the president’s tweet, but she did not acknowledge the question. She said only that his criticism is a “boost.”
“I don’t like to spend much time on his crazy tweets,” she said.