House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that President Donald Trump is impeached for life regardless of “any gamesmanship” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whom she accused of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s actions as the Senate waits for the House to transmit the articles of impeachment.
Challenging McConnell to hold a serious trial that includes testimony from witnesses, Pelosi did not rule out the possibility that the House would subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton if the Senate chooses not to. She repeatedly chastised McConnell for signaling that he is not interested in fully weighing the House’s charges.
“Dismissing is a coverup. Dismissing is a coverup. If they want to go that route again, the senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not — they will have to be accountable for not having a fair trial,” Pelosi said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
The speaker delivered her comments only days before a Senate impeachment trial is expected to begin — the third time a U.S. President will have faced potential removal from office following impeachment by the House.
Pelosi said she will meet with House Democrats on Tuesday morning to discuss the timing of a vote on impeachment managers — the half-dozen lawmakers who will prosecute the case and transmit the charges to the Senate. A trial could start as early as Wednesday, if the House acts quickly, though lawmakers and aides have speculated that it will not begin in earnest until the following week.
The House passed two articles of impeachment on Dec. 18 — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Pelosi surprised observers by not immediately transmitting the charges to the Senate, a strategy aimed at pressuring McConnell into naming fairer terms for the trial.
Sunday’s interview took place after Pelosi moved to end the three-week standoff, signaling in a letter to colleagues on Friday that she would transmit the articles to the Senate this week, even without any clarity from McConnell on how the trial would be conducted.
The speaker on Sunday accused McConnell of a coverup for signing on to a resolution to allow the Senate to dismiss impeachment charges if the House did not transmit them within 25 days of their approval.
The potential lack of witnesses and documentation in a Senate impeachment trial would be another “coverup,” she said, defending her decision to withhold the articles even though it did not produce the concessions she sought from McConnell.
“We wanted the public to see the need for witnesses, witnesses with firsthand knowledge of what happened, (and) documentation,” she said.
After “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos noted that McConnell “didn’t budge on witnesses at all,” Pelosi said he would be “accountable to the American people for that.”
“They take an oath to have a fair trial,” she said. “ … Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price for not doing it.”
Senate Republicans have rallied behind the precedent set during President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, in which the case for removal was presented and rebutted before decisions were made about calling witnesses or seeking further evidence.
Pelosi dismissed comparisons to 1999 for “at least six reasons … the biggest one is that the witnesses (who eventually testified) were all deposed” before their public testimony.
“The evidence was there,” she said. “It was just a question of bringing it more to the forefront.”
McConnell’s no-witness trial strategy has been complicated by several developments in the past two weeks.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said that she is working with a small group of Republicans to ensure that the trial includes witnesses.
And Bolton announced this month that if the Senate subpoenas him, he “is prepared to testify.” In the fall, he rebuffed requests to serve as a witness during the House inquiry.
Pelosi said the House hasn’t “eliminated the possibility” of subpoenaing Bolton if the Senate does not but said, “We’ll see what they do.”
The speaker also did not rule out the possibility of the House drafting further articles, saying again: “Let’s just see what the Senate does.”
Stephanopoulos noted that just before the show began, Trump posted a tweet calling Pelosi “Crazy Nancy” and deriding House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif.
“It’s Sunday morning, (and) I’d like to talk about some more pleasant subjects than the erratic nature of this President,” Pelosi said in response. “But he has to know that every knock from him is a boost. … Everything he says is a projection. When he calls someone crazy he knows that he is. Everything he says, you can just translate it back to who he is.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that Pelosi deliberately held off sending the articles to the Senate to delay a trial that will require Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a 2020 presidential candidate, to attend in person. McCarthy argued that this would boost former vice president Joe Biden, one of Sanders’ rivals, in the run-up to the Feb. 3 Iowa Democratic caucuses.
“What this does is this benefits Joe Biden,” McCarthy said, adding that Sanders “will be stuck in a chair.”
McCarthy did not mention the other Democratic senators vying for their party’s presidential nomination — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey — also will have to attend the impeachment trial in person.
On the same show, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said he wanted Biden’s son Hunter to testify, but did not mention any other possible witnesses.
When it comes to deciding which witnesses, if any, would testify, Scott said that would be decided after the trial was underway.
“We’re going to follow the Senate rules. We’re not going to follow Nancy Pelosi’s rules,” Scott said. “We’re going to listen to both sides, then we’ll make a decision.”
Former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, for his part, said Trump should allow his staffers to testify in exchange for having Joe and Hunter Biden, as well as others, such as the initial CIA whistleblower whose complaint is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, appear before senators in the trial.
The House impeachment inquiry focused in part on whether the president improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Hunter Biden’s ties to Ukraine’s largest private gas company, Burisma, and whether his father sought to protect Burisma’s owner while serving as vice president. No evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the Bidens has surfaced, but Trump and other Republicans say they ought to be questioned.
“I think those witnesses need to be called,” Bannon said, adding that Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney could also appear during the trial. “Bring them. What do they have to show? Donald Trump did nothing wrong.”
Before midday, Trump tweeted: “Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong? Read the Transcripts! A totally partisan Hoax … Very unfair to tens of millions of voters!”
Trump claimed that three Democrats voted with Republicans to oppose impeachment.
In fact, only two Democrats voted against the charge of abuse of power, while three voted against the charge of obstruction of Congress.
One of the Democrats who voted against both articles, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, has since switched parties and become a Republican.