Trump fumes as Pelosi prepares to transmit articles of impeachment
US president claims House speaker is ‘absolute worst in US history’
US president Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Huntington Centre in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Whether or not Nancy Pelosi is the “absolute worst speaker of the House in US history”, as Donald Trump insisted on Saturday, the Democrat has indicated she will soon transmit two articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.
While the president lashed out on Twitter, preparations continued on both sides of the aisle for a piece of pure Washington theatre. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency before he could be impeached, which makes Mr Trump only the third president to face trial in the Senate, a process Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton survived.
The articles of impeachment were approved before Christmas but Ms Pelosi delayed in sending them to the Senate while Democrats sought to negotiate the rules for Mr Trump’s trial with Republicans who hold the upper chamber.
“I have always said I would send them over. So there shouldn’t be any mystery to that,” Ms Pelosi said.
Ms Pelosi had delayed delivery of the charges for weeks to compel Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to agree to include new witness testimony and evidence about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democrat running for the nomination to face Trump in the November election.
Ms Pelosi insisted her delay helped make American voters aware of the need for a “fair trial” with witness testimony and evidence. If Mr McConnell continues to block such proceedings, Republicans would pay a political price.
“I think that he will be accountable to the American people for that,” Ms Pelosi said.
Her gambit appeared to fail as McConnell slammed the door on that idea last week, saying he had enough Republican votes to start the trial without a commitment to hear from additional witnesses, including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Democrats want Mr Bolton and other key Trump aides to appear as witnesses. Mr Bolton has said he will do so if served with a subpoena.
Now the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, are asking @senatemajldr Mitch McConnell to do the job that they were unable to do. They proved NOTHING but my total innocence in the House, despite the most unfair & biased hearings in the history of Congress. Now they demand fairness!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2020
In an interview with Fox News broadcast on Friday night, Mr Trump made clear that he would block such testimony, citing executive privilege, should the Senate allow it.
Most likely the Senate will not, as Mr McConnell remains in lockstep with the White House, saying he has not ruled out new witnesses but emphasising that impeachment is a political, rather than a judicial, process and promising Democrats’ case will be quickly dismissed.
Republican senators have followed their leader, regardless of the oath they will take to be impartial jurors. Democratic hopes that moderates such as Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska might act in sufficient numbers to force the calling of witnesses seem to have been in vain.
A two-thirds majority of 100 senators would be required to remove Mr Trump from office – a vastly unlikely outcome, however the trial proceeds, given a Republican party fully behind its president.
The case against Mr Trump is that he abused his power, by seeking investigations in Ukraine regarding a conspiracy theory about election interference and alleged corruption involving former vice-president Joe Biden, a rival at the polls in 2020, and then obstructed Congress in its attempts to investigate the affair.
In House hearings, witnesses detailed the withholding of nearly $400 million (€360 million) in military aid from Ukraine, as well as promises of a White House meeting for its president, Volodymyr Zelinskiy. Mr Bolton, who sought a judge’s opinion on whether he should testify, thereby delaying a decision until the articles were approved, emerged as a key figure.
Leading Democrats, among them Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, have pointed to the emergence of new reporting on White House approaches to Ukraine as a benefit of Ms Pelosi’s delay.
Regardless, Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday that “the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, are asking Mitch McConnell to do the job that they were unable to do. They proved NOTHING but my total innocence in the House, despite the most unfair & biased hearings in the history of Congress. Now they demand fairness!”
Mr Trump also claimed that “new polling shows that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is going nowhere. A vast majority want the Do Nothing Democrats to move on to other things now!”
In fact, most polling shows the US public split on whether Mr Trump should be removed.
On Saturday a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of Iowa voters said 45 per cent of voters in the state, of either party, disapproved of the process while 43 per cent approved.
Nationally, polls site fivethirtyeight.com puts support for removing Mr Trump at 50.2 per cent, to 46.2 per cent against.
Ms Pelosi “is obsessed with impeachment”, Mr Trump told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “She has done nothing. She is going to go down as one of the worst speakers in the history of our country. And she’s become a crazed lunatic. But she will go down as, I think maybe the worst speaker in the history of our country.”
On Sunday morning, Mr Trump demanded that an ABC News host “ask Crazy Nancy why she allowed Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to totally make up my conversation with the Ukrainian President & read his false words to Congress and the world, as though I said it? He got caught!”