Fox News Judge Says Pelosi Has a 'Moral and Constitutional Obligation' to Send Articles of Impeachment to Senate

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano argued on Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is constitutionally mandated to forward to the Senate articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, despite her suggesting she would hold off for the time being.

Napolitano, who previously served as a New Jersey Superior Court judge and has drawn Trump's ire for arguing that the House's impeachment inquiry was legally sound, made the remarks Thursday during a segment of Fox News morning show Fox & Friends. He noted that he has repeatedly defended the impeachment process led by House Democrats.

"You know, I have been arguing there is a legal basis for impeachment because it's really a political judgment on the part of the members of the Congress," the legal expert asserted. He noted that Pelosi has a "moral and constitutional obligation" to send the articles to the Senate for the trial process to move forward.

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at her weekly news conference on December 19. For now, she is holding off sending to the Senate the House's articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

"Under the Constitution, the Senate writes its own rules. [It is] not subject to the approval of the speaker of the House or the majority of the House," Napolitano said. Although he said it was unclear what process or rules the Republican-led Senate would implement, the former judge argued that this was beside the point.

The president is "entitled to that forum in which to defend himself, irrespective of what the House thinks," Napolitano stated. "The House is finished with this now."

Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether she would be sending the articles, which were passed by the Democratic-controlled House Wednesday night, to the Senate, Pelosi declined to confirm what the next steps would be. "We'll make a we go along," she said.

The Senate will "understand what their responsibilities are, and we'll see what that is," she added.

During a Thursday morning press conference, Pelosi again addressed the issue. She said House leaders were waiting to see what the Senate process will be before sending the articles over. Separately, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, said that the articles would be forwarded and that his party was "not playing games."

A representative for Pelosi told Newsweek in an email that they had checked with their lawyers and that the speaker's actions were lawful. "There is nothing in the Constitution or House rules that says when the Speaker must send impeachment articles to the Senate. We are aware of no requirement that they must be sent within a specified time, or even ever," the representative said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, criticized Pelosi for holding up the articles. "Looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet," he said during remarks from the Senate floor on Thursday.

McConnell said last week that he planned to coordinate the trial with the White House counsel, leading Democrats—and some conservatives—to argue that the Senate leader plans to violate the oath he will be required to take before an impeachment trial. That oath, required of all senators, explicitly states that they will do "impartial justice." Critics say that coordinating with Trump's legal team essentially guarantees that this will not be the case.

Trump and McConnell
President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House on November 6. McConnell says he plans to coordinate the Senate's impeachment trial with the White House counsel. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty

Responding to McConnell's criticism, Pelosi referred to him as a "rogue leader."

Trump, meanwhile, attacked the Democrats on Twitter for holding up the articles of impeachment. "Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it's Senate's call!" he tweeted.

Despite being a regular analyst on Fox News, which is largely seen as supportive of Trump and Republicans, Napolitano has routinely voiced criticism of the president and his administration.

In an article published Wednesday in the conservative newspaper The Washington Times, Napolitano said there was "undisputed evidence" that Trump had "abused his power by inviting a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 presidential election and then compounded this by directing subordinates to refrain from giving congressionally commanded evidence of his behavior."

This article has been updated with comments from a representative of Speaker Pelosi.