WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Sunday that his impeachment trial in the US Senate should not be allowed to go forward and that the Supreme Court can halt it, his comments on Twitter coming just days before the anticipated start of the trial on counts of abusing his office and obstructing Congress’s investigation of his withholding of military aid to Ukraine.
“This phony Impeachment Hoax should not even be allowed to proceed. Did NOTHING wrong,” wrote Trump on his Twitter account.
The president published a link to a video in which his personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, argued that the Supreme Court should declare the Senate trial unconstitutional and prevent it from being held, a concept that Trump seized upon, remarking in his tweet: “Great idea.”
However, it is very unlikely that the high court would decide to involve itself in the ongoing dispute between the legislative and executive branches, and it is not at all clear – in any case – that the court has the authority to act in that way.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sidestepped clarifying precisely when she will send to the Republican-controlled Senate the two articles of impeachment against Trump passed by the Democrat-controlled lower house on Dec. 18, after announcing on Friday that she will send those articles to the Senate sometime this week.
Pelosi did say that on Tuesday, Jan. 14, she will meet with the members of her party to decide when to send the impeachment articles to the Senate and who the “managers of impeachment” will be, that is the members of the House who will act as prosecutors in the process that could conceivably result in Trump’s removal from office.
“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 told ABC News. “Now the ball is in (Senate Republicans’) court to either do that or pay a price” in the November 2020 elections.
Once the impeachment articles are forwarded to the Senate, the president’s trial should proceed rapidly there, perhaps starting as early as Wednesday, although it is probable that the first few days of the proceedings will be devoted to establishing the rules governing the event and otherwise preparing for it.
Pelosi on Sunday defended her decision to hold back for the past several weeks on sending the impeachment articles to the Senate with the objective of pressuring Republicans there to agree to call key witnesses in the trial, saying that their refusal to hear any witness testimony would be clear evidence of a “coverup” of the president’s unlawful behavior.
The Democratic leader did not rule out issuing a subpoena for former National Security Adviser John Bolton – who left the administration amid controversy – to testify if the Senate does not do so, and she also did not rule out the possibility of filing more impeachment charges against Trump in the future.
In addition, she warned that Senate Republicans would be complicit in a coverup if they threw out the charges against Trump even before the trial begins, an idea that GOP lawmakers have considered but which is a non-starter since to do so would require a two-thirds majority in the upper house and Republicans hold “only” a 53-47 majority there.
Trump’s impeachment trial is based on two charges: that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress by refusing to allow members of his administration to testify before the House during its investigation into whether he withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure Kyiv to launch a corruption investigation targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the president’s key rivals in the 2020 presidential election.
According to Democrats, Trump conditioned delivery of almost $400 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine and also a coveted White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Kyiv’s announcing that it was launching the corruption investigation on Biden.
It is highly unlikely that Democrats will secure the two-thirds majority required in the Senate to remove Trump from office, although it may be possible for them to set certain rules regarding the trial – such as the calling of witnesses, which most Republicans absolutely do not want to do – since only a simple majority is required for that and several GOP senators just may be willing to agree to that.