Trump, Pelosi spar over impeachment ‘stigma’ as Senate readies for trial

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

The Senate is preparing for the impeachment trial of President Trump to kick off in the near future as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) readies to send the pair of articles across the Capitol to the upper chamber nearly a month after the House indicted Trump on what it considered high crimes and misdemeanors.

With the Senate set to start the trial soon, Trump and Pelosi engaged a public battle on Sunday as she sat down with ABC News’s “This Week” and the president watched on, tweeting before and after the interview as the Speaker defended making him the third president to be impeached.

“It’s about a fair trial,”Pelosi said. “We’ve done our job. We have defended the Constitution of the United States. We would hope the Senate would do that as well.”

Pelosi also said that no matter what the Senate does, Trump will be “impeached forever” and “for life” after the House action last month. The president reacted shortly thereafter, declaring for the umpteenth time that he did nothing wrong and saying that being impeached is a “stigma” (The Associated Press).  

“Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?” Trump tweeted (The Hill).

While the trial is coming down the rails, there are many unknowns surrounding the process, which The Hill’s Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis examine in their preview of coming attractions in the Senate. Headlining the outstanding questions: when the trial will even start and what the rules will look like in the upper chamber.

Pelosi is expected to name managers and transmit the articles this week, but when exactly is up in the air. In her “Dear Colleague” note on Friday, she said that she will do so after meeting with the Democratic caucus to discuss it on Tuesday morning. Once the articles are transmitted, the Senate trial is expected to start almost immediately.

As for the Senate resolution laying out the rules, Pelosi has said she wants to see it before revealing the managers for the trial. Sources told Beavers and Lillis that the resolution will help her determine whether she selects members with more prosecutorial experience or constitutional and appellate experience.

Axios: What to expect this week as Pelosi prepares to send articles of impeachment.

The Hill: Trump hits Senate for giving impeachment “credibility” by holding trial.

The Washington Post: Pelosi says Trump “impeached for life” despite McConnell’s “gamesmanship,” “coverup.”

Other unanswered questions center around the politics of impeachment, headlined by the ramifications on the 2020 Democratic primary race. Five candidates, including two frontrunners for the nomination, will be holed up in Washington for the impeachment trial and proceedings, taking them away from the campaign trail and costing them valuable time with voters (The Hill).

What will happen regarding witnesses also remains to be seen. Former national security adviser John Bolton unexpectedly announced a week ago that he is ready and willing to testify if the Senate calls him to do so. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made it clear he’d prefer no witnesses, some Republicans would like to hear from Bolton and others.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is running for reelection this year, said in an interview Friday that she is working with a “fairly small” group of Republican senators to ensure that an initial resolution on the impeachment trial rules allows for witnesses. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also said last week that he wants to “be able to hear from” Bolton, but didn’t weigh in on the process to make that happen.

Democrats need four Republicans to agree to hear from witnesses, though Trump floated invoking executive privilege over Bolton’s potential testimony and remains a wild card.

Pelosi’s plan to transmit the articles this week comes after she held off doing so for three and a half weeks after they passed the House on Dec. 18. While some Democrats criticized her over the past week for holding on to them too long, she has defended her handling of the situation.

During the ABC News interview, she argued that the time allowed the focus to zero in on McConnell’s plan for the trial in the Senate, the discourse about witnesses in the upper chamber to expand and more evidence to come to light, among other reasons.

Jonathan Allen: Could Democrats be better off without impeachment witnesses?

The Washington Post: A pact with Trump on impeachment? McConnell’s Kentucky backers demand it.

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