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The House of Representatives has voted to send articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate. The newly selected House impeachment managers walked the documents across the Capitol Wednesday evening. Lisa Desjardins reports on a historic moment in American politics and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the anticipated trial schedule, newly released evidence and other Senate business.
The House of Representatives voted today to send articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, setting the stage for an intensely partisan battle ahead.
Capitol Hill correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
Today, a historic walk across the Capitol that Washington waited nearly a month to see, House officials crossing to the Senate to signal and spark the impeachment trial.
The newly appointed House managers, members of Congress who will prosecute the case, walked behind the House clerk, who delivered a message setting the trial in motion, this timing determined by the House speaker.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:
We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history.
On the floor of the House chamber, Nancy Pelosi defended her decision to hold back the articles of impeachment until now.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
Don't talk to me about my timing. For a long time, I resisted the calls from across the country for impeachment of the president.
She said the president's actions regarding Ukraine gave the House no choice.
Republicans, led by California's Kevin McCarthy, fired back that Democrats are motivated solely by politics.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.:
This is not a moment this body should be proud of. If, as Speaker Pelosi likes to say, impeachment is a national civics lesson, let's use this blunder as a teachable moment.
Good morning, everyone.
With the new phase of impeachment comes the newly announced team of House managers. The group of seven, nearly half the size of that appointed in the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial, includes Democrats Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, the two chairmen who led the impeachment hearings.
It's also made up of two former lawyers, a former police chief, and a former judge, as well as Representative Zoe Lofgren, who was in Congress for both the Clinton and Nixon impeachments.
Those managers have some new evidence today, with the release of documents last night obtained from Lev Parnas. He's an indicted associate of Mr. Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Those include his handwritten note about the Ukrainian president, saying, "Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated," also a letter displaying Giuliani's first outreach to the newly elected president, stating Giuliani was working — quote — "with Trump's knowledge and consent."
And a copy of text messages between Parnas and Ukraine's top prosecutor, which appear to show they were tracking the whereabouts of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She was later recalled by President Trump.
Democrats say that's the kind of information that the delay in starting the trial has brought.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.:
New documents and additional witnesses have emerged that unmistakably point to the president's guilt.
On Twitter, President Trump charged Democrats with a con job and questioned the timing of the new evidence, writing: "All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate."
On the Senate floor, on the precipice of the trial, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the House investigation.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:
It was not, Mr. President, some earnest fact-finding mission that brought us to where we are. This is not about the nuances of foreign assistance to Eastern Europe. This has been naked partisanship all along.
The Senate will transform into an impeachment courtroom soon, when senators are sworn in for the trial.
And Lisa is here with me now, as inch closer to this historic trial.
So, Lisa, tell us a little bit about what we know about the thinking on the part of Speaker Pelosi in choosing this group of managers.
My reporting is, there was a lot of thought over who would do this. There were many members who wanted this opportunity, who knew this case, who were on the two committees involved.
In the end, they picked a small team that they felt would both be good in representing the message and the substance of what they are pursuing here with the articles of impeachment.
There is also another factor here. They wanted this team to look different than the 1999 team. Let's take a look at that 1999 Republican impeachment team that prosecuted the articles against President Clinton.
There you see 13 of them. Now, the photos, I think, show what Democrats are trying to do here. Let's look at the team that they have appointed for this impeachment trial.
There you are, seven. There were no women in 1999, no people of color prosecuting that case. Here, you have a team that looks more like America. And that's the point that Democrats are trying to make. They also said they thought that large team in 1999 was just too unwieldy. They want this to be more focused.
So clearly, Lisa, White House — folks at the White House watching all this very, very closely. What do we know about what they're expecting at this point?
What we don't know is who will be representing the president next week when this trial starts in earnest with the opening arguments.
They had a call. A senior administration official said they will announce that when they're ready. They also said that they do not think witnesses should be allowed for the House team, because they think the House has had its opportunity to gather evidence. However, the White House also said they think the president should be able to call witnesses, because they do not think he has had the chance to do that in a fair manner yet.
So they're still saying, we need to call witnesses?
They're saying the White House would like to call its witnesses.
So, as you reported, as we heard, new evidence coming out from this associate of the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a man named Lev Parnas.
What do we know about that?
Well, as we reported in the story, these are a lot of his own notes, his conversations with different people. Democrats look at this evidence and say, these are more dots connecting the president directly to what was going on in Ukraine, and that the president himself was part of Giuliani's efforts for their reasons that they think were corrupt.
Republicans say , no, wait a minute. This is just someone who worked with Giuliani. We don't know if this person is truthful. We also don't know if Giuliani really did talk to the president or not, or if he was just relaying that.
Republican say this is not the direct piece of evidence that Democrats see.
And so we don't know whether that's going to be introduced or part of the Senate trial.
It actually has been forwarded. It will be forwarded when all the evidence comes over to the Senate. And it is some something that is actually leading to some confusion today. Maine Senator Susan Collins, a significant potential swing vote, said it was perplexing that the House presented this evidence now.
But we will see what happens.
So, as we wait for the trial, what do we look for tomorrow?
Right. OK. Let's start with the order of events.
Tomorrow at noon Eastern time, that's when the House managers will come in and formally present the articles of impeachment. They walked them over tonight, but because of how the rituals and rules of the Senate go, they will formally present them tomorrow. They will be read out loud just after noon. Then, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow, 5:00 — sorry — 2:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow, that's when we will see Chief Justice John Roberts sworn in as the presiding officer of this trial. He will then, in turn, swear in the rest of the Senate as essentially jurors, and that will close out sort of the formal opening of this trial.
It's interesting, Judy, that that's not the only business the Senate is going to conduct tomorrow. We also expect the Senate, before all of this, to perhaps vote on this large USMCA, U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal.
And early next week, Judy, there could be a vote on war powers, limiting the president's war powers in regards to Iran. All of those are things that we're watching.
And we know, Judy, right now, the American public is split on impeachment. So it's going to be interesting to see how these two sides try to focus that opinion.
And what you're saying suggests the Senate leadership wants to make it clear they're doing other business at the same time they're dealing with…
I think that's part of it.
But I think the truth is, the Senate wants to get these things done. If they don't do this U.S.-Mexico trade deal now, then they would be in the middle of a trial. It would be much harder to do for another two, perhaps more weeks.
Thank you. Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
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