WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the article of impeachment against Donald Trump will be sent to the Senate soon, triggering the start of his trial, but she refused to specify when.
The House impeachment managers - the prosecutors who will present the case against Trump - are in contact with the Senate about the timing, Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday (Jan 21).
"I don't think it will be long," she said.
The article accuses Trump of inciting insurrection for stoking a crowd of his supporters on Jan 6 who then stormed the Capitol in a riot that left five people dead.
Sending the article to the Senate would require an almost immediate start for the trial, inevitably drawing attention away from President Joe Biden's first days in office and potentially slowing confirmation of his Cabinet picks.
Democrats won back the Senate on Wednesday after six years in the minority after two new Georgia senators elected Jan 5 were sowrn in.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has replaced Republican Mitch McConnell as the majority leader, but they are still working out details of how to organise the Senate, including the procedures for the trial.
"It's still unresolved as to when she's sending it over," Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber's No. 2 Democrat, told reporters earlier on Thursday.
"It could be today - unlikely - could be tomorrow. And then what we're going to do with it, whether or not it's going to be a full blown trial with evidence and witnesses or 'expedited,' whatever that means, that final decision isn't even close."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday it is up to Congress to conduct the trial.
Biden is "going to leave it to them to determine what the path forward should be, on the pace, on the steps, on the mechanics," she told MSNBC.
"He's going to focus on delivering what he feels he promised to deliver on when he was running for office."
After Trump's first impeachment on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Dec 18, 2019, the House did not transmit the articles until Jan 15, 2020. That trial concluded Feb 5 with Trump's acquittal.
The House speaker dismissed the criticism from some Republicans that proceeding with the trial of Trump, who is no longer in office, would undermine the message of unity that Biden emphasised at his inauguration.
"I think we need to speak as soon as possible with as much unity as possible that a second impeachment of President Trump is bad for the country and we're gonna fight that," South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who had been a close ally of the outgoing president, said on Wednesday.
Pelosi said the former president must be held accountable for his role inciting the mob.
"Just because he's now gone, thank God, you don't say to a president 'do whatever you want in the last months of your administration, you get a get out of jail card, free'," she said.
At least 17 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats to convict Trump. The Senate could then vote to bar him from ever holding public office again with a separate vote by a simple majority.