WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to transmit two articles of political trial against President Trump to the Senate, sending the president and his party to an unknown territory in a deeply divisive trial loaded with history and political risk.
In a choreographed ritual, the Chamber formally appointed seven Democrats to act as administrators of political trial to prosecute the case before the Republican-controlled Senate. The group quietly marched two charges of high crimes and misdemeanors, locked in thin blue folders, through the Capitol to launch the third presidential political trial in US history.
The procedures that will begin on Thursday will take place in a Capitol already occupied by politics during a controversial election year. Among the senators who will sit in Trump’s judgment will be four Democrats who run for president, juggling their campaigns to defeat him with his duties as a jury.
The trial is fraught with dangers for Trump. He will face weeks of public discussion about the allegations that he requested foreign aid in the 2020 presidential elections, abusing the power of his office and obstructing an investigation of Congress in the process. But it is almost certain that the president will present his probable acquittal as a complete exoneration and will use the considerable apparatus of his campaign to enliven public outrage.
Democrats believe the procedure will put pressure on Republicans, particularly those who face difficult re-election challenges, to condemn Trump or risk being elected as the president’s apologist. However, they also run the risk of a violent reaction if voters criticize the political trial effort and dismiss it as a political trick.
“We are here today to cross a very important threshold in the history of the United States,” spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said while speaking on the floor of the House before a vote to transmit the articles. Regardless of the result, he added, Trump would be “charged for life.”
the House accused Trump last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, formally accusing him of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political opponents while retaining as leverage a military assistance package of nearly $ 400 million and a meeting of the White House with the president of the country. .
Wednesday’s vote, almost exactly one month later, was largely similar to that of the party. Only one Democrat, Rep. Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, joined all Republicans to vote “no.”
The action altered the seven managers of political trial who will present the case of the House. The group, mostly lawyers, included a former police chief and reflected the geographic and demographic diversity of the Democratic group, with three women, two African Americans and one Latina.
Hours later, after an elaborate signing ceremony, they walked two by two through a silent Capitol, carrying the items, embossed with a gold seal and with the signatures of Mrs. Pelosi and the secretary of the Chamber, to the Senate More than two dozen Democrats, but only two Republicans, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, sat in the chamber waiting for his arrival.
At the White House, the president denounced the effort to remove him again as a “hoax” that Republicans would soon discredit: “Let’s take care of that,” he told House members who attended a ceremony in the East Room, shortly before vote. Senior administration officials projected confidence, described his as an “easy case” and predicted that the Senate would acquit the president in two weeks without hearing any witness.
But the path ahead in the Senate was far from clear, as the chamber was usually prepared for a potentially fragile procedure and some Republicans were agitated by a longer and more complete process.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, confirmed that she and a small group of Republican colleagues, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Mitt Romney of Utah, had worked with McConnell to make sure there was a vote on whether call witnesses or collect new documentary evidence, once each party has presented their case and senators have had the opportunity to ask questions.
“It is important that we have a positive or negative vote on the issue of citing witnesses and documents,” Collins told reporters, “and I have worked very hard to include that, with all my colleagues I mentioned, in the government resolution.” .
The president himself has “two ideas” on the matter, said Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, saying Trump was hesitating between wanting a lengthy trial with a solid public defense of his actions and a quick dismissal.
“I think he feels he has been unjustly accused, and I would like to present his version,” Paul said in an interview on Wednesday. But he added: “I think it’s hard to reject the idea that we could have a motion to end this.”
McConnell accepted the items on Wednesday afternoon and invited managers to display them at noon on Thursday. The Senate will summon The President of the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr., who will preside over the trial, will administer an oath that will force the senators to issue “impartial justice” and issue a subpoena asking the president to answer the charges against him.
However, the trial will not begin seriously until Tuesday, with a debate on a resolution to establish the rules followed by initial arguments by the House managers and the president’s legal team.
After weeks of sharp words, Mr. McConnell played an unusually bleak note on the floor of the Senate, in a nod to the weight of the occasion.
“This is a difficult time for our country, but this is precisely the kind of time for which the editors created the Senate,” he said. “I am sure that this body can rise above the short-term ism and faction fever and serve the best long-term interests of our nation. We can do this and we must do it.”
Pelosi held the trial articles for almost a month to try to increase pressure on Republicans like Collins to vote for new evidence. Democrats aggressively argued that a trial without him amounts to an extension of Trump’s attempts to cover up his actions.
Pressing his case, just as legislators were preparing to transfer the articles through the Capitol, the Chamber made public another section of texts, calendar entries, notes and other newly received records that illustrate aspects of Trump’s campaign of pressure on Ukraine They could be used by prosecutors at trial.
They came from Lev Parnas, a partner of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and seemed to detail attempts to dig up the land in Ukraine over Mr. Trump’s political rivals, actions that lie at the heart of the case of the camera. In a In an interview with The New York Times, Parnas said Trump had been fully aware of his efforts, although the two men never talked about it.
“Time has been our friend in all this because it has thrown incriminating evidence, more truth into the public domain,” Pelosi told reporters.
To lead the team of managers to process the case, Ms. Pelosi turned to one of her most proven deputies, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the Ukrainian investigation of the House as chairman of the Committee Intelligence.
The group also includes Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, the president of the Judiciary Committee; Zoe Lofgren of California, a veteran of three presidential political trial debates; Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a fast-growing Democratic leader and messenger chief of the party; Val B. Demings of Florida, a former police chief; and Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas.
Several of the legislators have experience in court of some kind, a quality that Ms. Pelosi said she had sought. Two, Mr. Crow and Mrs. Garcia, are first-term members, and Mr. Crow has military experience that allows him to talk about the national security implications of some of Mr. Trump’s actions.
Managers met for the first time as a group on Wednesday to discuss the strategy in the basement chambers of the Intelligence Committee, where the political trial investigation was conducted last fall.
In the coming days and weeks, managers will try to raise their arguments against Trump over ordinary politics. Like Mr. Trump’s defense team, they will direct their case not only to the 100 senators gathered at the trial, but also to the voters who will go to the polls in November and act as the final appeals court of the presidency of the Mr. Trump.
They will seek to recreate the highlights of the two-month investigation into the Ukraine issue, based on the testimony of more than a dozen senior US diplomats and White House officials who challenged the president’s orders not to cooperate.
Those witnesses described a broad campaign of Mr. Trump to use the levers of his government to pressure Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and states that the Democrats colluded with Ukraine in the elections of 2016. The president, the Chamber concluded, finally withheld military aid for Ukraine and a coveted White House meeting for its new leader as a lever.
But managers must also deal with Trump’s successful stone wall again. Their widespread refusal to produce documents or superior assistants for investigators resulted in the second charge of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, but also holes in the record of facts that senators have already made clear that they will question.
“This trial is necessary because President Trump seriously abused the power of his office when he strongly armed a foreign government to announce investigations of his internal political rival,” Nadler said during a brief debate on the floor of the House before the vote. “But we still haven’t heard the whole truth.”
Republican leaders on both sides of the Capitol seemed impassive. McConnell called the Chamber’s three-month investigation in Ukraine “a pale imitation of a real investigation.” Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and minority leader, called the entire process a “national nightmare.”
Emily Cochrane and Annie Karni contributed reports from Washington and Maggie Haberman from New York.