WASHINGTON • The Democratic-led US House of Representatives is expected to formally send impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate this week, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to help acquit his fellow Republican.
Rather than immediately sending the two articles of impeachment passed by the House on Dec 18 to the Republican-led Senate, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held on to them, preventing Mr McConnell from dispensing with the matter with a quick trial that would clear the President.
The House has charged Mr Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in its investigation of his dealings with Ukraine.
House Democrats were set to discuss yesterday morning (Washington time) how to move forward, Ms Pelosi said on Sunday, with the chamber possibly voting to send the charges to the Senate later that day.
The nearly month-long delay in sending over the charges, according to Ms Pelosi, accomplished the goal of getting the US public to see the need for calling witnesses in the trial after Mr Trump's administration blocked some current and former officials from cooperating in the House impeachment inquiry.
Mr Trump appeared on Sunday to reverse his position on how the Senate should proceed. He wrote on Twitter that a full trial would give the Democrats who pursued impeachment undeserved credibility, and signalled support for having the Senate simply dismiss the charges with no trial.
Mr McConnell has yet to say definitively how the Senate will conduct the trial.
He has not committed to allowing any witnesses or new documents in the proceedings and instead could steer the process towards a quick acquittal. Mr McConnell has left open the possibility of deciding on witness testimony later in the trial.
He has said he sees no chance of the Senate convicting Mr Trump.
The impeachment charges stem from Mr Trump's request that Ukraine investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Mr Trump in the Nov 3 presidential election.
The Senate, which could open a trial rapidly after receiving the charges from the House, plans to meet daily except on Sundays each week to conduct the proceedings, likely beginning each day at noon and working until either 5pm or 6pm.