The House speaker on Sunday defended her decision to delay sending the articles to the Senate to begin Donald Trump’s trial, saying she wanted to make the case that witnesses needed to be called. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stood strongly against that, saying he has enough Republican votes to move forward with a quick trial that would not include witnesses.
Democrats have stressed the need to call top members of the Trump administration who had firsthand knowledge of the president’s actions to pressure Ukraine into launching an investigation of his political rival, Joe Biden. The White House blocked their testimony during impeachment hearings in the House and also refused to send over documents related to the matter.
As Politico noted, Pelosi said the delay in sending articles of impeachment was necessary as Democrats made the public case for calling witnesses.
“What we think we accomplished in the past few weeks is that we wanted the public to see the need for witnesses,” Pelosi said during an appearance on ABC News’ This Week. “Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay the price.”
The House speaker did find some evidence for witnesses since the articles were first passed. During the three-week period during which Pelosi held back the impeachment articles, newly released emails show that the Pentagon pushed back against Trump’s decision to freeze congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine. Pelosi said that the pressure on Senate Republicans to hold a full trial and not a hurried acquittal was worth the wait.
“More importantly,” Pelosi said, “raising the profile of the fact that we need to have witnesses and documentation, and if we don’t, that is a cover-up.”
McConnell still had not agreed to witnesses, but Pelosi was beginning to face pressure from some in her own party to transmit the articles of impeachment and begin Trump’s Senate trial.
Trump is still expected to be acquitted by the Senate, as a number of Republicans have said they plan to vote to acquit him. It would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict Trump and remove him from office, meaning a significant number of Republicans would need to break with their party and oust a president just months away from the 2020 election.