WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution appointing House impeachment managers and transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, allowing the trial of President Trump to begin.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell later told reporters he expects to engage in the initial phase of the trial this week. The substantive trial action could begin on Tuesday, he said.
The crux of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
In another statement Tuesday, Pelosi commented on reports that the Kremlin had hacked Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that’s at the heart of the impeachment scandal, calling them ‘‘alarming.’’ Hunter Biden formerly served on Burisma’s board. Pelosi blamed Trump for his inaction on election security.
‘‘The President and every Republican Senator must explain to the American people why they are refusing to defend our national security and the integrity of our elections,’’ Pelosi said. ‘‘We only learned of this hacking through the press. Congress must be briefed on what the Administration knows about this attack and why the President doesn’t have a plan to protect our elections.’’
The House impeached Trump on two charges on Dec. 18: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Pelosi, Democrat of California, had held the charges as she sought assurances that the Senate would call witnesses but decided late last week to transmit them without an agreement.
The speaker initially made the announcement about Wednesday’s vote during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning of House Democrats, according to three officials who requested anonymity to share details of a private meeting.
In her statement, she said the House had ‘‘upheld its Constitutional duty to defend democracy For The People . . .’’
Pelosi knocked McConnell for becoming a cosponsor of a resolution to dismiss the charges.
‘‘The American people will fully understand the Senate’s move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political coverup,’’ she said. ‘‘Leader McConnell and the President are afraid of more facts coming to light. The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.’’
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has said that he wants the trial — only the third impeachment of a president in US history — to follow the format used 21 years ago in the trial of President Clinton.
Under those rules, House impeachment managers and lawyers for Trump would first give opening statements and then senators would have an opportunity to present written questions to both sides. Only at that point would the Senate decide whether to call witnesses.
McConnell blasted House Democrats on Tuesday for presenting a ‘‘half-baked’’ impeachment resolution.
‘‘Two things cannot be both true,’’ McConnell said during remarks on the Senate floor. ‘‘House Democrats’ case cannot simultaneously be so robust that it was enough to impeach in the first place but also so weak that the Senate needs to go fishing. If the existing case is so strong, there’s no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place.’’
Among the highly sought impeachment witnesses by Democrats is former national security adviser John Bolton, who earlier this month said he would be willing to testify if he receives a Senate subpoena.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said he believes the Democrats already have the support of Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah, on witnesses, which puts them one vote short of the simple majority needed to make decisions about the trial, including whether to call witnesses.
He then named Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as the ones he believes could get Democrats to the 51-vote threshold.