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Impeachment news roundup: Jan. 9

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators at a GOP lunch to keep their schedules flexible for the end of next week

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican senators were told by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at a lunch Thursday to keep their schedules flexible for the end of next week, when they are supposed to leave Washington for a weeklong break that includes the MLK Day holiday on January 20.

According to an attendee, McConnell said that with the possibility that Speaker Nancy Pelosi could soon send over the impeachment articles, senators should be prepared to be at the Capitol for Saturday sessions starting Jan. 18.

Pelosi has not announced her plans for transmitting the articles.

“The speculation at lunch was that it will be this week. The end of this week, today or tomorrow,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters after lunch. 

He said that he has not yet seen a final version of the rules and procedures for the Senate impeachment trial.

McConnell on Thursday signed on to a resolution by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., that seeks to change Senate rules to allow a motion to dismiss articles of impeachment after 25 calendar days if they haven’t arrived from the House.

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Here is the latest on impeachment:

Pelosi holds on: Pelosi suggested Thursday her hold on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump could end in the near future, but she did not specify the circumstances that would lead to that.

“No, I’m not holding them indefinitely,” Pelosi said answering questions from reporters at her weekly news conference. “I’ll send them over when I’m ready. And that will probably be soon.”

Pelosi reiterated that she wants to see the Senate resolution specifying procedures for the impeachment trial before she releases her hold on the articles, although she also acknowledged that McConnell has declined to do so. 

“At some point we hope that we would see from them what the terms of the engagement would be,” she said. “We are ready.”

Pelosi said “it is not incidental” to identify what witnesses and documents will be allowed in the trial but separate from that request from Democrats is the need to know the rules under which House impeachment managers will be able to present their case. She cited previous Senate rules that only allowed one person to speak for the House and the White House and she needs to know whether that’s what McConnell envisions for this trial before she decides who should represent the House.

“It doesn’t mean that we have to agree to the rules or like the rules,” she said. “We just have to know what they are.”

Asked why she doesn’t just send the articles over and let Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer handle the negotiation over procedure, Pelosi suggested a second try at that would be futile.

“They’ve had the negotiation,” she said.

Pelosi concluded her remarks on impeachment with a swipe at McConnell, who has repeatedly said the speaker can’t “dictate” how the Senate chooses to run its trial.

“I’m not responsible to Mitch McConnell or anybody else except my members and the people that have worked so hard on this,” she said.

Bolton testimony is Senate’s call: Trump sent mixed signals about whether he would be OK with his former national security adviser John Bolton testifying in a Senate impeachment trial.

“That’s up to the Senate,” Trump told reporters after an unrelated event at the White House, noting “I always got along with him.”

“He didn’t get along with some of our people,” he said of the notoriously brusque Bolton before warning his former aide’s testimony could erode “presidential privilege” that allows certain top White House aides, including national security advisers, from being required to testify on Capitol Hill.

“For the future, we have to protect presidential privilege,” he said, opining that future chief executives cannot have senior aides and former top staffers testifying about “whatever my thoughts are, whatever your thoughts are.”

In her news conference, Pelosi cited Bolton’s willingness to testify and new information on the Ukraine aid package hold that has emerged since she put her hold on the articles.

“In the past few weeks since we’ve had, shall we say, this impasse since they won’t reveal the terms of engagement, many things have been accomplished,” she said.

“A joke and a scam”: Trump on Thursday accused Pelosi of being afraid to deliver to the Senate the  impeachment articles he dubbed “a joke” because they prove “no crimes.”

He also claimed in a tweet the articles “were fraudulently produced by corrupt politicians like Shifty Schiff in the first place,” referring to House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California.

Claiming to be a victim of “persecution” by Democrats, the president claimed the articles and the investigation that spawned them “show no crimes and are a joke and a scam!”

McConnell told his caucus this week he has the votes to set procedures for the trial that do not include an agreement on witnesses, deferring the question of whether to call witnesses until after opening cases from the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team.

The House voted last month to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, during which he suggested that country’s government investigate top U.S. Democrats moments after the duo discussed a massive American military aid package on Kyiv was eager to secure for its standoff with Russia.

Get on with it: Several Senate Democrats pushed Pelosi to send over the articles sooner rather than later.

“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” Sen. Diane Feinstein told Politico on Wednesday. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons, and independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, expressed similar sentiments.

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith  told CNN on Thursday that he supported Pelosi’s effort to try to leverage a fair trial in the Senate, but “at this point it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.”

Later in the morning, Smith walked back from those remarks, saying he “misspoke.”

“If the Speaker believes that holding on to the articles for a longer time will help force a fair trial in the Senate, then I wholeheartedly support that decision,” he tweeted.

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski said that when the articles go over won’t matter in the long run.

‪“A year from now, none of you are going to remember whether we sent the articles on Jan. 9th or Jan. 18th or Jan. 25th. You will remember how this ends,” Malinowski‬ said as he left a closed door meeting Thursday morning.

Trump TV: Some Republican senators are advising Trump to not include some of Trump’s fiercest defenders during the House impeachment proceedings in the Senate trial.

The White House had floated adding GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Ratcliffe of Texas  and Doug Collins of Georgia to Trump’s legal team and the president “loves the idea,” The Washington Post reported, citing administration and congressional sources. 

But McConnell has been advising Trump and his legal team to not think of the trial as a “made-for-TV-type House setting, but rather one where ultimately your audience is senators in the middle on both sides, who are actually listening to the arguments here,” the Post reported, citing a source familiar with McConnell’s thinking.

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