House votes Wednesday to begin Trump's impeachment trial

The House will vote on Wednesday to send the impeachment articles to the Senate as Republicans stand divided over the terms of the trial.  

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives to meet with the Democratic Caucus at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 14, 2020. Ms. Pelosi is set to discuss the next steps of the trial with her colleagues.

The House is preparing to vote Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate to start the historic trial, several people told The Associated Press.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was meeting privately Tuesday at the Capitol with House Democrats about next steps, ending her blockade almost a month after they voted to impeach Mr. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Ms. Pelosi suggested the House vote on Wednesday to transmit the charges and name the House managers for the case, according to one Democratic aide unauthorized to discuss the closed-door meeting.

The action will launch the rare Senate proceeding, only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history, a dramatic endeavor coming amid the backdrop of a politically divided nation and the start of an election year.

The trial would begin in a matter of days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is meeting behind closed doors later Tuesday with GOP senators as they negotiate the terms of the trial.

Senate Republicans are signaling they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump as he has suggested. They are considering whether to allow a vote on such a motion to dismiss and another to subpoena testimony from new witnesses.

"I think our members, generally are not interested in the motion to dismiss. They think both sides need to be heard," Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who is part of the GOP leadership, said Monday.

Mr. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and obstruction of Congress in the probe.

With the impeachment trial starting in a matter of days, senators are still debating the rules of the proceedings. GOP senators are conferring privately about whether to allow a motion to dismiss the charges against the president or to call additional witnesses for testimony.

Mr. Trump suggested over the weekend he might prefer simply dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to charges from the House, which he considers a "hoax."

It was an extraordinary suggestion, but one being proposed by Trump allies with support from some GOP senators, including Mr. McConnell.

But it is clear Mr. McConnell does not have the votes needed from his GOP majority to do that.

Key Republicans, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, said they, too, would oppose a motion to dismiss the charges.

Ms. Collins is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mr. Romney and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to ensure the ground rules include plans to eventually consider voting to call witnesses.

"My position is that there should be a vote on whether or not witnesses should be called," Collins said.

Mr. Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run led by Mr. Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

"I've said I'd like to hear from John Bolton," Mr. Romney told reporters Monday. "I expect that barring some kind of surprise, I'll be voting in favor of hearing from witnesses after those opening arguments."

Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have the majority in the Senate, to consider new testimony, arguing that fresh information has emerged during Pelosi's monthlong delay in transmitting the charges.

Mr. McConnell is drafting an organizing resolution that will outline the steps ahead. Approving it will be among the first votes senators take after they are sworn as jurors by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for the Court of Impeachment.

Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Mr. Trump. Mr. McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who would prolong the trial. He prefers to model Mr. Trump's trial partly on the process used for then-President Bill Clinton's trial in 1999. Senators say if witnesses are allowed, some Republicans may also try to subpoena Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice president. 

Mr. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been pursing theories about the Bidens, but other Republicans are cool to embrace his work. The claims against the Bidens are unfounded.

It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses. Just four GOP senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new testimony. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Mr. Trump.
Most Republicans appear willing to go along with Mr. McConnell's plan to start the trial first then consider witnesses later, rather than upfront, as Democrats want.

Ms. Collins is pushing to have at least the promise of witness votes included in the organizing resolution. She and the others appear to be gathering support.

"I've been working to make sure that we will have a process that we can take a vote on whether or not we need additional information, and yes, that would include witnesses," Ms. Murkowski told reporters.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters the House vote might come Wednesday. "Could be," he said.

This story was reported by the Associated Press. Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Andrew Taylor, and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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