The House is set to vote Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on whether the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are grounds for his removal, with seven Democrats named to present the case in a landmark Senate trial.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the names of the seven managers. At midday, the House will vote to send the impeachment articles to the Senate, and the managers will later in the day walk them across the Capitol to the Senate.
By rank, the managers are as:
- Adam Schiff, California, House intelligence chair.
- Jerrold Nadler, New York, House judiciary chair.
- Zoe Lofgren, California.
- Hakeem Jeffries, New York.
- Val Demings, Florida.
- Jason Crow, Colorado.
- Sylvie Garcia, Texas.
The group includes a former federal prosecutor (Schiff), police chief (Demings), municipal judge (Garcia) and private practice lawyers (Crow and Jeffries). Career politicians Nadler and Lofgren have law degrees, with the latter a Democratic aide during the Richard Nixon impeachment process and a congresswoman during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial.
Schiff and Lofgren were also managers during the last federal impeachment trial in 2010 that saw a Louisiana judge removed from the federal bench.
"The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people," said Pelosi.
Watch: Top Democrats say they want fair process in Senate
Trump's hearing will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, coming against the backdrop of a politically divided nation and an election year.
He was impeached by the Democratic-led House on Dec. 18 on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress over pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and a discredited theory about a computer server. Nearly $400 million US in Pentagon-approved aid was withheld aid from Ukraine, released weeks later once it emerged a whistleblower complaint had been initiated regarding a July 25 phone call Trump conducted with Ukraine's president.
White House denies Trump wrongdoing
The White House quickly released a statement disparaging the latest step of what it has characterized as a partisan process.
"The Speaker lied when she claimed this was urgent and vital to national security because when the articles passed, she held them for an entire month in an egregious effort to garner political support," said spokesperson Stephanie Grisham. "She failed and the naming of these managers does not change a single thing.
"President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated."
New details of Trump's efforts on Ukraine emerged late Tuesday, increasing pressure on senators to call witnesses in the trial, a step that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been reluctant to take.
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 chair Adam Schiff said the information shows Trump's effort `'to coerce Ukraine into helping the president's re-election campaign." He said this and other new testimony must be included in the Senate trial.
Division over witnesses
The Senate is expected to transform into an impeachment court as early as Thursday, although significant proceedings wouldn't begin until next Tuesday. The Constitution calls for the chief justice to preside over senators, who swear an oath to deliver "impartial justice."
McConnell, who is negotiating rules for the trial proceedings, said all 53 Republican senators are on board with his plan to start the session and consider the issue of witnesses later.
Senate Republicans also signalled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump, as Trump himself 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 Tuesday. `'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.
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 Giuliani.
Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have a slim Senate majority, to consider new testimony, arguing fresh information has emerged during Pelosi's month-long delay in transmitting the charges.
Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Trump. It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses. Just four Republican senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new testimony. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
At Tuesday's Republican lunch, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky warned that if witnesses are allowed, defence witnesses could also be called. He and other Republicans want to subpoena Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine, Burisma, for over two years while his father was U.S. 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.
McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who would prolong the trial and put vulnerable senators who are up for reelection in 2020 in a bind with tough choices. At the same time, he wants to give those same senators ample room to show voters they are listening to demands for a fair trial.
Most Republicans now appear willing to go along with McConnell's plan to start the trial first then consider witnesses later, rather than upfront, as Democrats want.
Even if senators are able to vote to call new witnesses, it is not at all clear there would be majorities to subpoena Bolton or the others.
The Clinton impeachment trial lasted five weeks, which few observers expect this time. Republicans then named 13 managers, all white males, a number that at least one legislator said later was a mistake.
The Trump impeachment trial could conceivably burden senators on the campaign trail for the Democratic nomination for president: Michael Bennet of Colorado, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.