The third impeachment trial of a United States president was set in motion Jan. 15 as the House of Representatives voted to finally transmit two articles of impeachment to the Senate. The vote itself was a predictably partisan 228 – 193. No Republicans voted in favor of the resolution and a single Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), voted against. Peterson represents a district that can hardly be described as a “swing district,” as, in 2016, his constituents voted for President Donald Trump by a margin of more than 30 points. The House’s sole independent, former Republican Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), voted with Democrats.
Technically, the vote was a mere formality: The House had already voted to impeach the president and all that remained was for the chamber to formally transmit the articles to the Senate, prior to the opening of a trial. In this case, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had delayed the transmission, gambling that she would be able to bend the Senate’s Republican majority to her will, forcing them to agree to certain conditions for the trial, such as the calling of additional witnesses.
The gambit did not play out as Pelosi hoped, though. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not yield. In the meantime, House Democrats began to fidget uncomfortably as, increasingly, people asked the question: If impeaching Trump was such an urgent matter, why the delay now? Indeed, the longer Pelosi delayed transmission of the articles, the weaker the case against Trump would have looked. Perhaps more importantly, the dwindling attention of the public on impeachment was likely to fade into outright apathy.
What comes next, then? In an almost bizarre ceremony known as engrossment – a legal term referring to the finalization of a document or contract – the two articles of impeachment, inscribed on parchment, will be walked across from the House to the Senate. The seven now-selected House impeachment managers, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who will present the case against the president, will also be received by the Senate.
Within days, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be notified and the trial is now widely expected to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Roberts will preside over the Senate trial, though he does not act as a judge and will not decide the president’s guilt or innocence: That falls to a vote by the 100 senators. Convicting the president and removing him from office would require a two-thirds majority and it is almost unanimously expected that the Democrats have no chance of getting 20 Republican senators to vote with them, which is how many they would need to remove Trump from the White House.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.