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Pelosi says she'll send impeachment articles when 'ready,' but predicts it could be 'soon'

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told CNN's John Berman that although he understands House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's motivation for withholding the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, he thinks "it's time" to send them the Senate.

Posted: Jan 9, 2020 11:10 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2020 11:10 PM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled a possible end to the standoff over the impeachment articles, saying Thursday she would send them over "when I'm ready" — and suggesting it would likely be soon.

Pelosi's comments came after key House Democrats piled on the push from the speaker's allies to end the impeachment articles holdout.

Frontline Democrats facing difficult races and even one key House committee chairman said Thursday that Pelosi should send the two articles of impeachment to the Senate so President Donald Trump's trial can begin, though the chairman, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, walked back comments made on CNN Thursday morning.

"I think it's time" to send the articles over to the Senate, said Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat in a key seat.

At her weekly news conference, Pelosi did not back down from the delay on sending the articles, though she said she would not keep them indefinitely.

"I'll send them over when I'm ready. That will probably be soon," Pelosi said. "We want to see what they're willing to do and the manner in which they're willing to do it."

Pelosi's comments underscored the sentiment from within her caucus that the time for withholding the impeachment articles was nearing an end, three weeks after the House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said Thursday there won't be an indefinite delay.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the House Judiciary committee, defended Pelosi's strategy, but also said: "There can't be an indefinite delay. Obviously there's a constitutional and political clock ticking at this point. We're very eager to see that things move forward. Our report accompanying the articles of impeachment says the president constitutes a clear and present danger to American constitutional system ... We have to move forward on a basis that does justice to what the Constitution provides."

At a closed meeting in Pelosi's office with the six committee chairs who are investigating the President, the speaker did not tip her hand about her timeline on sending the articles to the Senate, according to two sources.

"The articles will be sent when they'll be sent," said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, declining further comment.

At a separate meeting with her top messengers on impeachment, sources indicated that Pelosi was still insistent on seeing the details of the Senate procedures before sending the articles over. They discussed polling from six battleground states on the public supporting a "fair trial" in the Senate, according to sources.

The push from House Democrats comes after Senate Democrats earlier in the week expressed impatience with Pelosi to keep withholding the impeachment articles after Congress returned to Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown no willingness to change his charted course on the Senate impeachment trial in the face of Pelosi's delay, saying on Tuesday he had the votes — without Democrats — to begin the trial.

McConnell on Thursday rejected Pelosi's demand that he must first unveil the resolution detailing Trump's trial procedures before she sends over the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

"No, we aren't going to do that," he told CNN.

McConnell added he's at a loss when the Senate trial will start. "Haven't heard a thing," he said, adding that speculation that the trial could start next week is based on the "same thing you've been hearing."

McConnell's statement is the latest indication that the ball remains in Pelosi's court about when she'll appoint her impeachment managers and send over the articles, which will start the trial.

The dispute between McConnell and Democrats all comes down to witnesses. Democrats say that the Senate trial must include witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, neither of whom testified during the House impeachment inquiry. But McConnell has insisted that the Senate should begin the trial with opening statements, and then move to a decision about whether to call any witnesses.

Pelosi sent a letter to her colleagues Tuesday saying she wanted to see McConnell release the resolution laying out the rules of the trial before sending the impeachment articles.

"As I said right from the start, we need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?" Pelosi said Thursday.

But McConnell has rejected Pelosi's request, saying Wednesday there would be no "haggling" with the House.

Democrats say that Pelosi's strategy has been effective, pointing to Bolton's statement this week that he would testify in a Senate trial if subpoenaed. But a growing number of Democrats see diminishing returns in an extended delay, amid concerns that such a move would look like a political ploy.

Smith, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, told CNN's John Berman Thursday morning "it is time" to send the articles.

"I think it is time to send impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial. He ultimately is," Smith said.

A few hours later, however, Smith walked back his comments on Twitter, saying he misspoke.

"I misspoke this morning, I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial," Smith tweeted. "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 said he issued the clarifying statement because of constituent calls, not due to pressure from Pelosi.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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