House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named two House chairmen who led President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry as prosecutors for his Senate trial.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the probe, and Judiciary Chair Representative Jerry Nadler, whose committee approved the impeachment articles, as among the managers of the prosecution.
“Today is an important day,” said Ms Pelosi, flanked by the team.
“This is about the Constitution of the United States.”’
Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats. All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2020
Mr Schiff and Mr Nadler will lead the seven-member team that includes a diverse selection of politicians, particularly those with courtroom experience.
They include Hakeem Jeffries, Sylvia Garcia, Val Demings and Jason Crow.
Mr Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden as Mr Trump withheld aid from the country.
He was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.
The House is set to vote later in the day to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial on whether the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are grounds for his removal.
The managers will then walk the articles across the Capitol to the Senate.
Mr Trump’s trial will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history, and it comes against the backdrop of a politically divided nation and an election year.
Today, we take the next step to #DefendOurDemocracy, sending articles of impeachment to the Senate.
McConnell will have a choice: stand with the Constitution, or with Trump’s cover-up.
Uphold the rule of law, or help Trump undermine it.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 15, 2020
New details of Mr Trump’s efforts on Ukraine emerged late on Tuesday, increasing pressure on senators to call witnesses in the trial, a step that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been reluctant to take.
House investigators announced they were turning over a “trove” of new records of phone calls, text messages and other information from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Mr Schiff said the information shows Mr Trump’s effort “to coerce Ukraine into helping the president’s reelection campaign”.
He said this and other new evidence must be included in the Senate trial.
The Senate is expected to transform into an impeachment court as early as Thursday, although significant proceedings would not begin until next Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.
The Constitution calls for the chief justice to preside over senators, who serve as jurors, to swear an oath to deliver “impartial justice”.
Mr McConnell, who is negotiating rules for the trial proceedings, said all Republican senators are on board with his plan to start the session and consider the issue of witnesses later.
Senate Republicans also signalled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Mr Trump, as Mr Trump himself has suggested.
Mr McConnell agreed he does not have the votes to do that.
“There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss,” Mr McConnell said on Tuesday.
“Our members feel we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”
A mounting number of senators say they want to ensure the ground rules include the possibility of calling new witnesses.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski for witness votes.
Why are you so obsessed with me, Mr. President? pic.twitter.com/BbAawEvQo6
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 14, 2020
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 by Mr Giuliani.
Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have a slim Senate majority, to consider new evidence, arguing that fresh information has emerged during Ms Pelosi’s month-long delay in transmitting the charges.
Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Mr Trump.
It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses.
Just four Republican senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new evidence.
It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Mr Trump.
At Tuesday’s private Republican lunch, Senator Rand Paul warned that if witnesses are allowed, defence witnesses could also be called.
He and other Republicans want to subpoena Mr Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a petrol company in Ukraine, Burisma, while his father was vice president.
Mr McConnell is drafting an organising resolution that will outline the steps ahead.
Approving it will be among their first votes of the trial, likely next Tuesday.
He prefers to model Mr Trump’s trial partly on the process used for then-President Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999.
It, too, contained motions for dismissal or calling new witnesses.
Mr McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who would prolong the trial and put vulnerable senators who are up for reelection in 2020 in a bind with tough choices.
At the same time, he wants to give those same senators ample room to show voters they are listening to demands for a fair trial.
Most Republicans now 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.
Even if senators are able to vote to call new witnesses, it is not at all clear there would be majorities to subpoena Mr Bolton or the others.