McConnell and Pelosi set for showdown over next steps of Trump impeachment

Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek on Wednesday night as the House voted to impeach him.
 Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek on Wednesday night as the House voted to impeach him. Photograph: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images
As Washington awoke on Thursday to the realisation that it had impeached the third US president in American history, the capital remained racked with uncertainty about what will come next in an impeachment process defined by almost total partisanship and rancor.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate who will have control over any impeachment trial, set an ominous tone when he announced that he would address the issue on Thursday morning from the Senate floor. He said he would speak about “House Democrats’ precedent-breaking impeachment of the president” – paving the way perhaps for breaches of precedent of his own.
It also remained unclear when the two articles of impeachment approved by the House on Wednesday night – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – would reach the Senate. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, has indicated that she may delay sending them over as a way of leveraging influence with Republican leaders and cajoling them into staging a substantive trial.
Pelosi said that she was not able to name impeachment managers – the House prosecutors who will present the case for convicting Trump and removing him from office to the Senate sitting as a jury – until she was confident about the conduct of the trial. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. Hopefully it will be fair, and when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers,” she said.
Until now, McConnell’s approach to the trial has been one of thinly disguised disdain. He has said he is co-ordinating every step with the White House – the head of the jury in cahoots with the defendant – and has rebuffed Democratic demands that key witnesses including the former national security adviser John Bolton be called to testify.
Such is the vast chasm now dividing the two main parties in Congress that some Trump opponents have begun to call for the articles of impeachment to be withheld from the Senate indefinitely. That would leave Trump in a state of limbo, with the dark cloud of impeachment hanging over his head while investigations continued.
Rightwing commentators have fired back that in that scenario, the Senate could go ahead with a vote to acquit Trump in any case. “Democrats can boycott, but they can’t stop the trial,” said Joel Pollack, senior editor at the Trump-friendly, right-wing outlet Breitbart News.
Trump’s line of attack, judging from an early morning tweet, was to underline and reinforce the overwhelming partisan divide. He seized on the fact that no Republican had broken ranks in the dual impeachment vote, the final tally of which was 230 to 197 on abuse of power and 229 to 198 on obstruction.
 Trump reacts to his impeachment: 'It's a political suicide march for the Democratic party' – video
The Democrats saw two of its members cross party lines on both impeachment votes – Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota – and a third, Jared Golden of Maine, voted against charging Trump with obstruction.
“100% Republican Vote,” Trump tweeted. “That’s what people are talking about. The Republicans are united like never before!”
The comment was an echo of the president’s remarks at a rally on Wednesday night at Battle Creek in the highly electorally sensitive state of Michigan. As he was shown the results of the votes, he told the loyalist crowd that the Democrats were “the ones who should be impeached, every one of them… House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans.”
With Trump now permanently lumped in with Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998) as the only US presidents to be impeached, he needs all the friends he can muster. Though arguably not of the variety of Vladimir Putin.
At his annual press conference on Thursday, the Russia president poured scorn on the articles of impeachment, saying they were based on “made-up reasons” and offering the opinion that Trump would almost certainly be acquitted.
In Ukraine, at the center of the impeachment battle after details emerged that Trump tried to pressure its president into investigating his political rival Joe Bidena spokesman for president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said impeachment was an “internal issue” and “Ukraine does not interfere in the internal affairs of any state”.
Meanwhile, Trump was coming under heavy fire for comments he made at the Battle Creek rally about John Dingell, the Democratic congressman from Michigan who died in February having held the record as the longest serving representative in US history.
In one of the lowest blows yet delivered by a president practised in the arts of insult and disparagement, Trump took a dig at the deceased politician who served his constituency for more than 59 years. Trump told his supporters, referring to Dingell, that “maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know” – implying that the dead man was in hell.
Debbie Dingell, who has occupied her late husband’s House seat since his retirement in 2015, posted a mournful tweet having heard Trump’s comment. “Mr President, let’s set politics aside,” she said. “I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”
On CNN on Thursday she explained that she was still grieving. “This Thanksgiving was hard. Christmas will be even harder. And I’m going to go back to doing my job.”


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