WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, Jan. 8, accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "shameless game-playing" as she reiterated that she does not plan to send the articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress to the Senate until seeing proposed rules for a trial of President Donald Trump.
The continuing standoff between Pelosi, D-Calif., and McConnell, R-Ky., focused on Trump's conduct toward Ukraine came as the president addressed the nation on hostilities with Iran, a crisis overshadowing the impeachment drama.
The crux of the Democrats' case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Pelosi reiterated Wednesday that she does not plan to name House impeachment managers and allow a trial to go forward until McConnell shares a resolution laying out proposed rules for a Senate trial.
"We are waiting to see what the terms are," Pelosi told reporters as she left a Democratic caucus meeting. "As I said from the beginning, how we choose our managers depends on what the arena . . . we are going into."
McConnell "said yesterday that he'd be glad to share his resolution when it's ready," Pelosi added. "We will welcome it when it comes, and then we'll see what the terms are. And then we'll be able to name our managers."
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York said he backs Pelosi's decision.
"I support the decision of the speaker to hold the articles until we get some clarity" as to whether there will be a fair trial, Jeffries said. He added that there was no discussion of the matter during House Democrats' Wednesday morning caucus meeting, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the vice chair of the Democratic caucus, blasted McConnell for saying he is ready to begin the impeachment trial without an agreement on witnesses.
"Continuing to block, to coordinate this trial with the White House makes the Senate leader complicit in this obstruction of the facts that we need to put forth in the impeachment trial and put forward in front of the American people," she said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned his Republican colleagues Wednesday that both history and the American people "in the here and now" will judge them harshly if they do not support the inclusion of witnesses and documents at a Senate trial of Trump.
"If the Senate fails to hold a fair hearing of those charges, if one party, the president's party, decides to rush through a trial without hearing all the facts, witnesses and documents, it won't just be the verdict of history that falls heavy on their shoulders," Schumer said. "The American people in the here and now will pass a harsh judgment on senators who participated in a coverup for the president."
Schumer also made clear that Democrats plan to force multiple votes on calling witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
"I want to make one thing very clear: There will be votes, repeated votes, on the questions of witnesses and documents at the trial," Schumer said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, put out a news release Wednesday afternoon that highlighted a half-dozen Democratic senators who have said publicly in recent days that a trial should begin soon. Among them was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who, according to a Bloomberg News reporter, said, "If we're going to do it, she should send them over. I don't see what good delay does."
McConnell criticism of Pelosi came in a Senate floor speech. "There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure," McConnell said. "The House Democrats' turn is over."
During his remarks, McConnell cited public comments from three members of the Democratic caucus — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine — who have said they would like to see a trial begin.
"My Democratic friends are losing patience," McConnell said, accusing Pelosi of having an "endless appetite for these cynical games."
"At the very same time a global crisis was unfolding . . . in real time, she published another 'Dear Colleague' letter saying she intends to keep our commander in chief in this limbo indefinitely," McConnell said, referring to the hostilities with Iran.
Manchin, however, said Wednesday on CNN that the Senate would be conducting "a sham of a trial" if it does not include former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness.
Bolton said earlier this week that he is prepared to testify in a Senate trial if a subpoena is issued. Some Republicans have argued that Bolton shouldn't be called since he did not participate in the House impeachment proceedings.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday that he anticipates Pelosi will make a decision about transmitting articles of impeachment "in the next few days" and defended the three-week delay.
"I understand she may make a decision in the next few days, but that's entirely up to her," Durbin said during an appearance on CNN. "What's she been looking for is not unreasonable. The Constitution calls for a trial in the Senate. She has asked what that trial will be. As one my colleagues said the other day . . . a trial has witnesses. A coverup does not have witnesses."
The shift in impeachment terrain has upended the tone of debate among Democrats and Republicans, with each side arguing a different theme from just three weeks ago, when the House approved the two articles against Trump.
For weeks, House Democrats highlighted how their investigation unearthed Trump's pressure campaign on Ukrainian officials to investigate the president's domestic political rivals. House Republicans bemoaned what they saw as a flawed and unfair investigative process. It was a "sham impeachment," as Trump put it at a rally last month.
With the case eventually moving into the GOP-controlled Senate, the sides have flipped positions.
Most Senate Republicans, still dismissive of the House investigation, are pushing for a trial in which no more investigative work is done and a verdict is rendered within two weeks or so. And Democrats are demanding a fair process, asserting that it would be flawed without additional investigative work with more witnesses.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., expressed hope that key witnesses would appear at a Senate impeachment trial even if it opens without an agreement with Republicans on who will be called.
"When the Republicans are faced with the motion, why wouldn't you want to have John Bolton come? You've got to have Mick Mulvaney come," Kaine told MSNBC.. "It's going to be very hard for them to live up to the oath of impartial justice and turn a blind eye to evidence that's out there that bears on the questions in this trial."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that Democrats are holding open the option of summoning Bolton to testify in the House but are waiting to see whether he will be called as a witness in the Senate.
"I think that's an option, but it's not an option that we're pursuing at this point in time. We'll need to see what the Senate is doing."
This article was written by John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, reporters for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade, Paul Kane, Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.