After vote, Pelosi stokes impeachment trial uncertainty

WASHINGTON (AP) — Minutes after the House impeached United States (US) President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw uncertainty into the process by refusing to say, repeatedly, when or whether she would send two articles to the Senate for a trial.

Her comments came as a surprise in a news conference late Wednesday that was intended to express Democrats’ sombre closing message after voting to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. She started by praising her fellow Democrats for having “moral courage” and said it was “a great day for the Constitution of the United States of America”.

But then she declined to say when she would send the articles to the Republican-led Senate. Until the articles are submitted, the Senate cannot hold the trial that is nearly certain to acquit the Republican President.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham blasted Pelosi’s move that would potentially delay the Senate trial, where she said Trump was sure to get a “fair shake” compared to the House.

In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Grisham said Pelosi’s announcement was “Just another gimmick and more changing of the rules”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California speaks at a news conference after the House votes to impeach United States (US) President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington. PHOTO: AP

Pelosi said House Democrats could not name impeachment managers — House prosecutors who make the case for Trump’s conviction and removal from office — until they know more about how the Senate will conduct a trial.

“We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Pelosi said. “And I would hope that that will be soon. So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, rejected a proposal earlier this week from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, to call several witnesses. McConnell also said that he is coordinating with the White House and declared that “I am not an impartial juror.”

Pelosi said that McConnell “says it’s okay for the foreman of the jury to be in cahoots with the lawyers of the accused. That doesn’t sound right to us.”

Schumer and Pelosi are set to meet, according to a person familiar with the planning who was not authorised to discuss the private meeting.

Asked again if she could guarantee that she would send the articles to the Senate, Pelosi said at the news conference, “That would have been our intention.” But they will see what the Senate decides, she said.

“We are not having that discussion. We have done what we set out to do,” Pelosi said.

An aide to McConnell said he did not have an immediate comment on Pelosi’s remarks. But he tweeted that McConnell would speak about “House Democrats’ precedent-breaking impeachment of the US President”.

Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, said after her remarks that Democrats want impeachment proceedings that are “judicious and responsible and deliberative”.