Ahead of impeachment trial, Trump suggests not having it

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump said the Senate should simply dismiss the impeachment case against him, an extraordinary suggestion as the House prepares to transmit the charges to the chamber for the historic trial.

The president is giving mixed messages ahead of the House’s landmark vote that will launch the Senate proceedings in a matter of days, only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. Trump faces charges that he abused power by pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and then obstructed Congress.

First Trump was suggesting his own ideas for trial witnesses, then he said almost the exact opposite on Sunday by tweeting that the trial shouldn’t happen at all.

“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial” over charges he calls a hoax, Trump tweeted, “rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!”

The idea of dismissing the charges against Trump is as unusual as it is unlikely.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signed on to an outlier proposal circulating last week among conservative senators, but he does not have enough support in the Republican-held chamber to actually do it. It would require a rare rules change similar to the approach McConnell used for Supreme Court confirmations.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned on Sunday that senators will “pay a price” if they block new witness testimony with a trial that Americans perceive as a “cover-up” for Trump’s actions.

“It’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi told ABC’s This Week. “The senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not, they will have to be accountable.”

She said, “Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price.”

Voters are divided over impeachment largely along the nation’s deeply partisan lines and the trial is becoming a high-stakes undertaking at the start of a presidential election year.

A House vote to transmit the articles to the Senate will bring to a close a standoff between Pelosi and McConnell over the rules for the trial. The House voted to impeach Trump last month.

Yet ending one showdown merely starts another across the Capitol as the parties try to set the terms of debate over high crimes and misdemeanours.