GOP Blasts Democrats’ Proposal to Withhold Senate Trial

December 19, 2019 Updated: December 19, 2019

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other House Republicans criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democrats over the possibility that they might withhold articles of impeachment to delay a Senate trial.

“She cannot hold onto [the articles] forever, that’s abuse of power. But it’s just an acknowledgment from the speaker that their impeachment is so weak that it’s the—it’s the weakest, thinnest, and fastest impeachment in US history,” McCarthy told Fox Business on Thursday. Meanwhile, he pilloried the speaker for declining to take further questions about the tactic, which Pelosi has neither confirmed nor denied.

“I would think if Nancy Pelosi thought impeachment was so important that she had to put this before the American public … the press conference the day after impeachment—that she has weekly—I thought she would have welcomed questions about impeachment,” McCarthy said. “Unfortunately, she told you they were Republican talking points and she would not take your questions. I never thought a speaker would act that way.

During press conferences on Wednesday night and Thursday, Pelosi wouldn’t say when the articles would be transferred and suggested that the Republican-controlled Senate would not hold a fair trial on impeachment.

“When we see what they have, we’ll know who and how many to send over,” Pelosi told reporters. “The next thing for us … is when we see the process set forth in the Senate. We will have the monitors set forth and who we will choose.”

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested House Democrats could hold the articles indefinitely, accusing the Republicans of not seeking to hold a fair trial in the Senate.

“The delay is made necessary because the majority leader of the Senate has made it very clear that he’s not going to be impartial, he’s not going to be fair, he will collude, if you please, with the White House—at least the White House’s attorneys—to decide how he will go forward,” he told CNN. “Why would the speaker of the House step into that without trying to determine exactly what the majority leader plans to do?”

If the House withheld articles of impeachment to the Senate, it would be an unprecedented move that some experts have said would create a Constitutional crisis. Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote that with the proposal, “it is difficult to imagine anything more unconstitutional, more violative of the intention of the Framers, more of a denial of basic due process and civil liberties, more unfair to the president and more likely to increase the current divisiveness among the American people.

Veteran GOP congress members blasted the maneuver.

“If they are trying to use that as leverage to get the Senate to call witnesses, that will be a huge mistake on their part,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) told the Washington Examiner.

The 76-year-old has managed four House impeachments, including one against former President Bill Clinton and three involving the removal of federal judges. He was a manager during the Republican-led effort to impeach Clinton in the late 1990s.

“From my experience with previous impeachments, not just the Clinton one, but also the judicial ones, the Senate really dislikes House members telling the Senate what to do and how to do it,” Sensenbrenner told the magazine. “They do that at their great peril.”

The lawmaker said that “if the idea is to remove Trump from office, which we all know isn’t going to happen, rather than just make a political statement for what we have done here for the past two-and-a-half years, then they have to deliver the articles to the Senate.”