WASHINGTON — For a month, things moved slowly in the impeachment of President Trump, as the two articles approved against him by House Democrats seemed to languish in the hands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Then on Wednesday, things moved very quickly.
The day began with Pelosi, D-Calif., naming the impeachment managers who will prosecute the case against Trump in a Senate trial. It ended with those managers standing over Pelosi as she signed the two articles the House against Trump, one on abuse of power and the other on obstruction of Congress. She did so at a table covered in blue cloth adorned with a Twitter hashtag: #DefendOurDemocracy.
“Today, we will make history,” Pelosi said before signing the articles, which were embossed with a congressional seal and enclosed in a leather portfolio. The impeachment managers circled around the speaker as she signed them with ceremonial pens that were later handed out to those managers and other senior Democrats, in what Republicans were quick to criticize as an unseemly show of triumphalism.
Commemorative pens, of course, are routinely handed out during momentous events in Washington, and there could hardly be a more momentous event than the one that transpired on Wednesday. On the day in December when the House voted to impeach him, Trump held a rally at which he mused that “it doesn't really feel like we’re being impeached.” But now, with the impeachment articles a physical reality of ink bound to paper, they will be impossible to ignore.
“He has been impeached forever,” Pelosi said earlier in the day.
The final outcome of that impeachment now lies in the hands of the Senate. With the articles signed and the impeachment managers named, the Senate trial can begin. It will conclude, probably sometime in February, with Trump either acquitted or removed from office.
After Pelosi signed the articles, the impeachment managers walked the leather-bound portfolio that contained them through Statuary Hall and to the Senate side of the Capitol. Members of the press and congressional aides watched from behind a cordon and from a balcony above. Despite the GOP charges of pen-related jubilations, the procession was somber, almost funereal. It was led by House sergeant at arms Paul Irving and House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, who held the articles.
Senate Republicans did not seem especially eager to begin the task now before them, at least not Wednesday night. As the Senate prepared for the signing of the articles, it also prepared to send those articles back to the House, meaning they will have to be walked across the Capitol again on Thursday morning.
“When the Senate receives the initial message tonight, the body will formally invite the managers to exhibit the articles during tomorrow’s session of the Senate,” explained David Popp, communications director for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in an email to reporters. “Only at that time, when the House managers return at the invitation of the Senate, is it possible for the Senate to formally receive the exhibition of the Articles of Impeachment.”
The Senate is expected to formally receive the articles at noon on Thursday, with the chief justice of the United States sworn in shortly thereafter. He will preside over the trial of President Trump, which will begin next Tuesday, according to McConnell. As Johnson brought the articles of impeachment into the Senate chamber, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Senate president pro tem, said that “the message will be received.”
McConnell then took to the floor, promising in his remarks that the chamber he leads would “rise above the petty factionalism” that seems to mark most proceedings on Capitol Hill these days.
A usually spirited defender of the president and critic of impeachment, McConnell was relatively subdued in his afternoon remarks, seeming to sense that something truly serious was at hand.
“The trial will commence in earnest on Tuesday,” McConnell said, adding, “This is precisely the kind of time for which the Framers created the Senate.”
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