With a solemn procession through the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, the House took the final, formal steps to pave the way for the third presidential impeachment trial in the nation’s history.
But even before Thursday’s swearing-in ceremonies could get underway, freshly-appointed House managers were predicting that newly-released evidence against President Trump — with more possibly to come — would complicate Republican hopes of reaching a speedy conclusion.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) told The Times he expects new evidence to come out during the course of the Senate trial, adding a possible element of surprise to the proceedings.
“There’s going to be new evidence coming out all the time. And if this is conducted like a fair trial, then that new evidence should be admitted. If it’s relevant, if it’s probative, if it sheds light on the guilt or innocence of the president, then it should be admitted,” Schiff said.
Schiff and six other representatives, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), were confirmed in a largely party line vote as the de facto prosecutors in the trial.
The vote cleared the way for the impeachment articles — passed by the House December 18 — to be forwarded to the Senate, where pretrial proceedings are expected to start Thursday morning.
Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his pressuring of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals as he withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to the country.
Some Senate Republicans have indicated they think the scope of evidence weighed by the Senate should be limited to the evidence gathered during the House investigation. But Schiff predicted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would run into difficulty if he attempted to block new information.
“It will be hard, I think, for the senators to ignore new and probative evidence,” Schiff said. “What are they gonna say? ‘We’re not going to look at that. We don’t want to see it.’ ... So there are limits I think to the ability of Sen. McConnell to prevent meaningful evidence from being considered.”
Schiff did not say if he knew of particular evidence that the managers planned to reveal. But in the past few weeks, since the House voted for impeachment, Democrats say there have been several new developments and disclosures that bolster their case, including an offer by former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify and the release to the House Intelligence Committee of documents related to the actions of Trump loyalists in Ukraine, including Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, and his indicted associate, Lev Parnas.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) announced earlier Wednesday her choice of Nadler, Schiff, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Val Demings (D-Fla.) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas). Schiff, a former prosecutor, was tapped to lead the group.
“The emphasis is on litigators. The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom,” Pelosi said in describing the legal experience her choices brought to the proceedings.
The so-called House managers will give opening and closing statements, lay out the facts collected in the House investigation, and potentially will cross-examine witnesses.
“The task before us is a grave one, but one demanded by our oath,” Schiff said on the House floor before the vote. “The House managers will take the case to the Senate and to the American people.”
The managers were confirmed 228-193. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was the only Democrat to vote against the resolution.
All of the managers come from strong liberal-leaning districts or won their most recent race by wide margins, prompting calls of overt partisanship. “It just looks very politically bent to me,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).
Pelosi was said to be aiming for a more diverse group than the 13 white men who acted as House managers during the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999.
It’s a role that can make or break careers, and there was lobbying behind the scenes as members jostled for one of the plum positions. Pelosi decided how many managers to choose. After the Clinton trial, some of the Republican House managers faced a backlash; at least one lost his reelection bid — in an odd twist of fate, he lost to Schiff.
The managers marched across the Capitol building Wednesday to notify the Senate that the articles of impeachment passed by the House in December are ready to be delivered. The procession came after a signing ceremony in which Pelosi handed out pens she used to sign the historic document. Upon arrival, the House clerk formally announced the delivery of the impeachment articles.
McConnell said the Senate would receive the House managers at noon Thursday, and that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would be summoned at 2 p.m. to begin presiding over the proceeding. The Senate is tasked with weighing whether the allegations warrant conviction and Trump’s removal from office.
Arguments from the House managers and the White House lawyers could begin as soon as Tuesday, after senators vote to establish a set of rules and procedures.
Republicans control the Senate, and with 67 votes required to remove a president from office, it is all but certain Trump will be acquitted.
“President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due-process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
Trump, during a White House signing ceremony for trade deal between the U.S. and China, pointed to a couple of attorneys in attendance and joked that he might need their services.
“I could use some good lawyers, right?” Trump said. “Ah, the hell with it. I just have to suffer along with it like I have all my life.”
Wire and Haberkorn write for the Los Angeles Times.