US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday appointed seven Democrats to act as prosecutors in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate.
The Democrat-controlled House is scheduled vote later on Wednesday to send the impeachment documents to the Senate for holding the trial against Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate’s Republican majority, has said the Senate will begin the trial next Tuesday but will begin preliminary steps this week.
The seven prosecutors, who were formally known as trial managers, include House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, who conducted the investigation of Trump, and Judicial Committee chair Jerry Nadler, whose panel framed the impeachment chargesheet against Trump that was adopted by the House last month.
The others are Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Val Demings, Jason Crow and Sylvia Garcia.
Announcing their appointment, Pelosi said, “What is at stake here is the Constitution of the United States. This is what an impeachment is about.”
“The emphasis is on litigators,” Pelosi said, adding, “The emphasis is on making the strongest case to protect our Constitution.”
Reacting to the appointment of the prosecutors, the White House said the impeachment process was “sham (and) illegitimate” and “the naming of these managers does not change a single thing.”
It asserted that Pelosi had “lied” when she claimed the matter was “urgent and vital to national security.”
Pelosi had held on to the Articles of Impeachment — as the chargesheet is known — in a bid to pressure McConnell to accept her terms for holding the trial and in an attempt to get some Republican senators to break the ranks on procedural matters.
But she has agreed to let the process move forward without an agreement on the main Democratic demand to call in their witnesses at the trial and to introduce new evidence.
The House Intelligence Committee, which conducted the investigation against Trump, on Tuesday released what it said were new evidences from Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Parnas is facing criminal charges.
Pelosi said that starting the trial without witnesses or documents was “a pure political cover-up.”
The impeachment process is only an investigation by the House. While there is no chance for the removal of Trump from the office, Democrats are hoping to use the Senate trial as a propaganda mechanism ahead of the elections in November by giving the charges against Trump another public airing and turning voters’ opinion against Republican senators facing re-election.
Trump called for an outright dismissal of the impeachment by the Senate, but McConnell said, “There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss.”
He added, “Our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”
Trump tweeted that by not dismissing the impeachment out of hand, the Senate trial was giving “credence to a trial based on no evidence, no crime and “the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility.”
Pelosi had hoped to make some Republican Senators break ranks with the leaders on the procedures for the trial. She has partially succeeded in this as at least four of them appear open to witnesses being called.
While Trump’s conviction and ouster from office is virtually impossible because of the two-thirds vote requirement in the 100-member Senate, only a simple majority is required on procedural matters. The Republicans have 53 members and four of them shifting positions could make a difference here.
McConnell appeared confident that he would have a hold on his party Senators to set the rules for the trial.
Whether witnesses would be called to testify is still open to discussion as the Republicans have said that it would be decided when the trial starts.
The main sticking point is that the Democrats are demanding to call their witnesses to testify at the trial.
The Democrats did not allow the Republicans to call their own witnesses to testify during the impeachment proceeding in the House and the Republicans did not seem inclined to oblige them in the Senate.
Trump tweeted, “‘We demand fairness’ shouts Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats, yet the Dems in the House wouldn’t let us have 1 witness, no lawyers or even ask questions.”
The charges against Trump stem from a July phone conversation he had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked him as a “favour” to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Democrats say this was an abuse of power and amounted to inviting foreign interference in US elections as Biden is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump in this year’s poll.
They also say that Trump withheld crucial military aid to Ukraine, a US ally against Russia, to pressure Zelensky and this endangered US national security. Trump said he delayed the aid to make sure the new government stomped out corruption.
Hunter Biden, who was made to leave the Navy because of alleged drug use and had no experience in the energy industry or in Ukrainian businesses, was appointed a director of a gas company there and received monthly payment of $83,000, according to the Republicans.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who was looking after Ukrainians affairs, had a prosecutor looking into the gas company removed.
He and the Democrats say that it was because the prosecutor was corrupt, while the Republicans see it as a conflict of interest.
New York, Jan 15 (IANS)