By the end of the week, we have a clearer picture. The Senate trial could begin as soon as next week. After Republicans refused to negotiate over witnesses, Pelosi announced that she would start the process to hand over the articles of impeachment. (There still could be witnesses, but only if four Republicans join with all Democrats later in the trial and vote to have them.)
Here’s how we got here, as told this week in quotes from key players.
“Since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.” — That’s John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser during the Ukraine saga, saying he will ignore a White House ban on testifying and do so if called on by senators.
“The Senate has a unanimous bipartisan precedent for when to handle mid-trial questions such as witnesses: in the middle of the trial.” — That’s McConnell, not budging. He’s laying out his reasoning for why he won’t initially agree to call witnesses, no matter how long Pelosi holds onto the articles. Senators holding the Bill Clinton impeachment trial voted 100-0 to first open the trial, then voted later on whether to hear from witnesses. (The difference is that most senators knew what the witnesses would say, given that they were interviewed by a grand jury and Republicans controlled the process in the House and the Senate, so there wasn’t any reason for Democrats to try to negotiate ahead of time.)
“Glaringly, the Republican leader has yet to make one single argument why witnesses should not testify. One single argument. I’m waiting to hear Leader McConnell give a specific answer why these witnesses should not come forward.” — That’s Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) in response, trying to make McConnell explain why he probably won’t call witnesses, even though a majority of Americans (some 70 percent) think Trump should let his top aides testify.
“We have the votes.” — That’s McConnell explaining that he has the support of a majority of Republican senators to start the trial without an agreement on witnesses. It’s a major moment for him, and it signals to Democrats that their pressure campaign isn’t working.
“I think the time has passed. She should send the articles over.” — That’s Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of a couple Democratic senators signaling cracks in the Democratic blockade.
“I’d like to hear from John Bolton and other witnesses with the right information, but that process will accommodate that.” — That’s Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the only Republican senator so far who has said he wants to hear from Trump’s former national security adviser. Two others, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they’d be open to witnesses. But it looks like all of them support McConnell starting the trial now.
“This process is not only unfair but designed to deprive senators and the American people of crucial documents and testimony.” — Pelosi writes that in a letter to her colleagues, not budging despite McConnell’s announcement.
“There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision.” — McConnell, a little more firm than before now that he has the votes from his caucus.
“The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes, so if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a Pelosi ally in the Senate, in remarks widely seen as the bottom falling out for Pelosi.
“I don’t know what happened there. … I did not mean to say that,” Feinstein told the San Francisco Chronicle, recanting her criticism of Pelosi.
“I’m not delaying indefinitely. I’ll send them over when I’m ready. And that will probably be soon.” That’s Pelosi to reporters, for the first time signaling that this stalemate could end — without the agreement Democrats want.
“I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate. I will be consulting with you at our Tuesday House Democratic Caucus meeting on how we proceed further.” — That’s Pelosi in a letter to her fellow House Democrats, announcing that she would start the process to hand over the articles of impeachment and get a Senate trial going.
“About time,” McConnell says when asked by a reporter.