By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
With Wednesday night’s vote, House Democrats have impeached President Donald Trump and put the Republican-led Senate on track to hold a trial on the charges against him as the new year begins.
But the exact timing of the Senate trial now looks in doubt, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she and her colleagues could delay transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Her comments indicating a delay have come after the House voted Wednesday night almost completely along party lines in favor of two articles of impeachment against Trump. The two articles, approved last Friday by the House Judiciary Committee, charge Trump with abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
Trump has become only the third American president to have been impeached formally by Congress, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned before such a vote could take place.
But impeachment by the House doesn’t mean removal from office. Neither Johnson nor Clinton was found guilty in an ensuing impeachment trial in the Senate, and that’s expected to be the same for Trump, whose Republican Party controls 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats. That helps explain why the stock market /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.17% /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.08% hasn’t reacted much lately to impeachment-related developments.
“We all know how it’s going to end,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, told Fox News last week . “There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office. My hope is that there won’t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment.”
The Senate has been getting ready to try the president in January, with its legislative calendar for that month cleared for the proceedings. Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to preside over the Senate trial, and Trump is expected to be asked to address the charges. House Democrats are set to serve as the prosecutors in the trial, and in this role are called impeachment managers, while the president’s lawyers defend him.
A two-thirds majority of senators must vote to convict Trump in order to remove him from office. McConnell on Tuesday rejected a request from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, for new witnesses and documents in the upcoming Senate trial, saying it was up to the House to build the case against Trump.
McConnell’s recent comments have drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers and sparked some expectations for a delay. After Wednesday’s vote, Pelosi declined to say when the impeachment articles will get transmitted to start the Senate trial, saying Democrats “ haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us ” in the Senate’s process.
In a Washington Post op-ed earlier this week, a Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe, called for Pelosi and her colleagues to consider holding off for the time being on transmitting the articles because McConnell has “announced his intention to conduct not a real trial but a whitewash.” This move could strengthen Schumer’s hand in bargaining over trial rules, according to Tribe.
McConnell on Thursday showed no signs he was willing to give ground to Democrats on the trial, saying the potential delay indicates Democratic lawmakers “may be too afraid” to “transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate.” He again rebuffed the request from Democrats that witnesses be called during the Senate trial.