Pelosi Still Won't Release Impeachment Articles Despite Growing Angst Among Democrats

As more Democrats across Capitol Hill begin to break by the day with Nancy Pelosi over her refusal to relinquish the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial, the House speaker dug into her position Thursday, saying she'll continue to withhold the articles until she sees the details for trial rules.

"We need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?" the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly press conference.

Her continued refusal to name impeachment managers and transfer the articles to the upper chamber is despite a growing number of Democrats stating it is time to do so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he has the votes to pass trial rules that mirror the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton, diminishing any leverage that Pelosi maintained as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) attempted to strike a deal with McConnell for subpoenaing documents and witnesses.

"The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, told Politico. "So, if it's serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn't, don't send it over."

Earlier in the week, Sen. Patrick Murphy (D-CT) told Newsweek, "I don't think there's much reason for further delay."

In total, more than a half-dozen Democratic senators this week have spoken out advocating to release the articles, including Joe Manchin (D-WV), a moderate Democrat; Doug Jones (D-AL), also a moderate and vulnerable member; Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Jon Tester (D-MT); and Chris Coons (D-DE).

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, concurred with his colleagues in the Senate, telling CNN Thursday that "at the end of the day... Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate."

Smith and Feinstein later walked back their remarks. Smith wrote in a tweet that he "misspoke" while Feinstein told Politico her comments "have been misunderstood."

"If the Speaker believes that holding on to the articles for a longer time will help force a fair trial in the Senate, then I wholeheartedly support that decision," Smith elaborated.

Pelosi still won't release impeachment articles
Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) listens during an event at the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol December 19, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty

McConnell seized on the growing dissent within the Democratic Party, rattling off during a floor speech Thursday morning the names of numerous Democrats who've rebuffed Pelosi by saying it's time to hold a trial. He accused the speaker of treating impeachment like a "political toy."

"This is a challenging time to create bipartisan agreement in the Senate on any subject, but the Speaker of the House has managed to do the impossible," McConnell said. "She's created this growing bipartisan unity here in the Senate in opposition to her own reckless behavior."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also ridiculed Pelosi, questioning how she could try to "impose" stipulations on the Senate "with a straight face."

"I'm not sure if she's embarrassed by the work being done or she was lying to us about it being urgent," he added.

Pelosi maintained her previously stated position that until McConnell publishes a resolution outlining the trial rules, she'll hold her ground. She cited new revelations and evidence that's surfaced in the weeks since the House passed the articles, such as former national security adviser John Bolton stating his willingness to testify in a Senate trial and emails between top administration officials that questioned the legality in withholding foreign military aid to Ukraine.

McConnell has refused to strike a deal with Schumer to subpoena documents and testimony from former officials, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Rather, he's advocated to move forward in the same fashion as the Senate did for Clinton, which would entail hearing arguments from impeachment managers and defenders of the president before determining whether to summon witnesses.

"It's exactly not like Clinton, and [McConnell] won't do a bipartisan agreement on how to proceed... I'm not responsible to Mitch McConnell or anybody else except my members and the people who have worked so hard on this," Pelosi said.

"No, I'm not going to hold [the articles] indefinitely," she continued. "I'll send them over when I'm ready and that will probably be soon."