President Donald J. Trump has become only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by Congress, joining former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
But as your civics teacher taught you—or at least should have—impeachment is only the first step in removing a president from office. It is now up to the Republican-led Senate to decide whether or not to convict him and remove him from office, which is, to put it mildly, unlikely.
Before that process can even begin, however, the House must present the articles of impeachment—for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—to the Senate. In a surprise move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not commit to sending the articles of impeachment on Wednesday.
“That would have been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there,” Pelosi said of the Senate, when asked during a Wednesday night, post-impeachment press conference about sending the articles to other branch of Congress.
“We have legislation approved by the Rules Committee that will enable us to decide how we will send over the articles of impeachment,” Pelosi added. “We cannot name [impeachment] managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side.”
Impeachment managers are members of the House who will be tasked with presenting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, and arguing why Trump deserves to be removed from office for his attempt to get the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens in exchange for foreign aid, as well as his interference with the investigation by Congress.
While Pelosi’s decision might seem a baffling move, there are some clear motivations behind the delay. Primarily, Democrats are concerned with how the Senate will run the trial against Trump, including whether or not it will call witnesses to testify.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday calling for four Trump officials to testify, including the former national security adviser, John Bolton, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House Chief of Staff. Both refused to testify in the House investigation. Schumer also wants to see Mulvaney adviser Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey answer questions before the Senate.
McConnell has said he has no intention of calling those witnesses, arguing that is not the Senate’s job, and claiming the request for witnesses is evidence the Democrats did “sloppy work” in their House investigation, where Trump not only refused to testify but also blocked the testimony of key officials.
Trump is taking a similar tactic, claiming the refusal is proof House Democrats are hiding something.
Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up! The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2019
Another reason Democrats might not be quick to send the articles of impeachment, which would have to be taken up immediately by the Senate, involves two spending packages that must be voted for before the week’s end to avoid another government shutdown.
Pelosi has so far failed to guarantee the articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate at all. If the Democrats decide to simply not turn them over, it would be an unprecedented move that would certainly be further seized upon by Republicans. The Senate trial is, at least for now, expected to begin in January.