WASHINGTON (CN) — Dusting off a procedure not seen in the House of Representatives for 21 years, lawmakers voted 228-193 to transmit articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate on Wednesday.
The vote came one month after the House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump’s trial in the Senate is set to kick off Jan. 21, with seven impeachment managers appointed just this morning by Speaker Nancy Pelosi presenting evidence. Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court will preside over the proceedings where Trump will effectively be represented by a team selected by the White House at some future date.
The last time such a vote occurred in the House was articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.
“This trial is necessary because President Trump gravely abused the power of his office when he strong-armed a foreign government to announce investigations into his domestic political rival,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, one of the managers named Wednesday. “He betrayed our country when he used the powers of his office, including withholding vital U.S. military assistance — to pressure the government to help him win reelection.”
Nadler detailed everything that has come to light in the past six months about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky, where he dangled the promise of a White House visit and U.S. military aid in exchange for an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm that once counted Hunter Biden as a board member.
“He invited foreign interference into our elections — again,” Nadler said. “He jeopardized national security. He did it all for his personal, political gain. And then he violated the Constitution by stonewalling Congress’ efforts to investigate, ordering an absolute blockade of evidence.”
Pelosi signed the articles of impeachment after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, swapping out pens after forming each letter and distributing them to the impeachment managers and chairs of the House committees that marshaled the impeachment process.
The newly minted impeachment managers then solemnly marched through the marbled halls of the Capitol to the Senate.
As expected, the Senate invited the impeachment managers to return on Thursday at noon to formally present the articles. Chief Justice Roberts will be sworn in shortly after 2 p.m. on Thursday, after which he will swear in the senators.
Less than 24 hours before lawmakers appeared on the House floor, the House Intelligence Committee released a trove of new documents from Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The files included a series of chilling text messages and curious emails that appear to show that the ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch faced a pattern of covert surveillance.
Some of the emails in the file show President Trump “consenting” to allow his one-time attorney, John Dowd, represent Parnas and Fruman. Another document, a hastily written note scrawled on stationary from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Vienna, Austria, was explicitly contradictory to the president’s position that his call with Zelensky was perfectly innocent.
“Get Zalensky [sic] to announce that the Biden case will be investigated,” Parnas’ note reads.
Wednesday’s vote formalizes the appointment of Nadler as an impeachment manager alongside House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Committee on House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren, who served during the impeachment of former President Richard Nixon as a staffer to the House Judiciary Committee and later as a member of the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.
Rounding out the team of managers are Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, and Representatives Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia Garcia of Texas.
For Republicans like Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, the monthlong delay to Wednesday’s vote was evidence of a supposed “failed strategy.”
Pelosi brushed off the remark, however, with criticism of her own for the Republicans’ avowed plan to dismiss the articles without consideration.
“Dismissal is a cover up,” Pelosi said, repeating the phrase at least three times.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed total coordination with the White House, even before Trump’s impeachment, and has taken a public stance that further witness testimony and fact-gathering is unnecessary.
Appearing to diverge slightly from that position Tuesday, however, the Kentucky Republican told reporters that the Senate is not likely to follow Trump’s preference of dismissing the articles without any debate.
“There is little or no sentiment in the Republican caucus for a motion to dismiss,” McConnell said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”
As for his long-stated position against building the record further, McConnell did not appear to budge.
Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly told reporters that securing witness testimony will be a key battle — but not necessarily the war.
“Obviously, we’re going to fight to have witnesses,” the Virginia congressman told reporters. “I don’t think that’s a sine qua non, but I think that’s a very useful thing to have to buttress the case — but not essential. I think we need to be careful not to fall into that trap. The case we’ve got is compelling and convincing on its own.”
The Latin turn of phrase sine qua non essentially translates to “without which it could not be.”
Connolly emphasized the need to allow the Democrats’ newly selected impeachment managers to make their case.
“Hopefully, the managers will have every opportunity to answer questions put to them thoroughly, without interruption, and will have a right to be heard in making the prosecutorial presentation,” Connolly said.
Highlighting a unique aspect of an impeachment trial, Connolly called it the only circumstance in which senators take a second oath.
“No other member of Congress ever takes a second oath for any reason, but you do on impeachment — and I hope they take that oath solemnly and seriously,” Connolly said.
Chairman Schiff, a former prosecutor, skewered the Republicans’ definition of an impeachment trial at a press conference this morning as being more akin to an appellate argument.
The Constitution vests the Senate with the power to try impeachments, and Schiff noted that the Framers opted for that language because they wanted it to resemble a trial.
Later Wednesday, the articles of impeachment will be physically walked from the House to the Senate in a formal and rarely invoked ritual known as an engrossment ceremony.
It will be House Clerk Cheryl Johnson and the House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving carrying the articles in the pomp-filled procession beginning in the majestic National Statutory Hall — named for its statues of famous Americans that dot the curved room — and ending at the stately entrance to the Senate in the Capitol Rotunda.
Upon arrival, Irving will issue a rousing “hear ye, hear ye,” and senators will be warned to keep silent “on pain of imprisonment” as articles are passed from one congressional body to another.
A single House impeachment manager, flanked by fellow managers, will then read the articles in full before House members make their exit.
With this part of the ceremony over, Thursday marks a new phase of impeachment with the swearing in of Chief Justice Roberts. Senator Chuck Grassley, the president pro tempore of the Senate and the body’s longest-serving Republican, will administer the oath.
“I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: so help me God,” Roberts is expected to say.
Once the trial starts, lawmakers will convene each day Monday through Saturday, at 1 p.m. Senators have only Sunday to rest and cannot stop proceedings until a verdict is reached.