Rep. Adam Smith, Democratic Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, walked back his comments about withholding articles of impeachment Thursday morning, and now says he fully supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy.
Mr. Smith, Washington Democrat, said on CNN’s “New Day” that he appreciated Mrs. Pelosi’s attempt to secure a trial that would satisfy Democrats, but ultimately believes the standoff should come to a close.
Soon after the interview made headlines, the Democratic chairman tweeted a clarification, saying he fully supports Mrs. Pelosi if she wants to continue to delay sending over articles of impeachment.
“I misspoke this morning, I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial,” Mr. Smith tweeted. “If the Speaker believes that holding on to the articles for a longer time will help force a fair trial in the Senate, then I wholeheartedly support that decision.”
He added in a second tweet that he does want to see the articles sent over eventually, just so the impeachment process continues to move forward.
His tweets were a complete reversal of his comments on the morning news show.
“I understand what the speaker is trying to do — trying to use the leverage of that to work with Democratic and Republican senators to try and get a reasonable trial that would actually get out evidence, show witnesses,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate.”
“At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” he added.
Mrs. Pelosi refused to send over the articles after House Democrats impeached President Trump last month on two counts — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — until Senate Republicans clearly laid out their procedures for trial.
On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell said he had the votes in line to proceed with the trial as Republicans see fit — using the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton as a model.
The 1999 proceedings allowed for House prosectors and a White House defense team to present their cases and answer questions from senators, before the chamber decided on whether or not to hear from witnesses. The procedure was decided on unanimously.
House Democrats argue the Clinton model isn’t a right fit in this situation because the Democratic president was investigated by a special counsel for more than a year, whereas some officials they called for their investigation did not cooperate.
As of Wednesday, a handful of Democratic senators said it was time to move forward with the trial, but House Democrats were in line with the speaker. Mr. Smith is the first Democrat in Mrs. Pelosi’s conference to publicly speak out in favor of ending the standoff.