WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House is set to vote today to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate for a landmark trial on whether charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are grounds for removal.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the next steps after meeting privately with House Democrats at the Capitol, ending her blockade Tuesday, a month after they voted to impeach Trump.
It will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history, a moment coming amid the backdrop of a politically divided nation and an election year.
"The President and the Senators will be held accountable," Pelosi said in a statement. "The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial."
The Senate is expected to transform into an impeachment court as early as Thursday. The Constitution calls for the chief justice to preside over senators, who serve as jurors, to swear an oath to deliver "impartial justice." The House managers will walk the articles across the Capitol in a dramatic procession after the vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the chief justice would open the trial this week, but the proceedings would launch Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden as the president withheld aid from the country, and obstructing Congress' ensuing probe.
McConnell met behind closed doors Tuesday with GOP senators who are under pressure from Democrats to call new witnesses and testimony. He urged them to hold together on the next steps, according to a person unauthorized to discuss the private session and granted anonymity.
As McConnell is negotiating rules for the trial, he said all 53 GOP senators are on board with his plan to start the session and consider the issue of witnesses later.
Senate Republicans also signaled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump, as the president has suggested. McConnell agreed he does not have the votes to do that.
"There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss," McConnell said. "Our members feel we have an obligation to listen to the arguments."
In fact, a mounting number of senators said they want to ensure the ground rules include the possibility of calling new witnesses.
Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney, of Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, for witness votes.
"My position is that there should be a vote on whether or not witnesses should be called," Collins said.
Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run by Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have a slim Senate majority, to consider new testimony, arguing fresh information has emerged during Pelosi's monthlong delay in transmitting the charges.
"We want the truth," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday as the chamber opened. He said that in other presidential impeachment trials the Senate called witnesses. "Do Senate Republicans want to break the lengthy historical precedent?"
Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Trump. It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses. Just four GOP senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new testimony. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
At the private GOP lunch, Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, warned if witnesses are allowed, defense witnesses could also be called. He and other Republicans want to subpoena Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine, Burisma, while his father was vice president.
"I look forward to forcing votes to call Hunter Biden and many more," Paul, an ally of the president, tweeted late Monday.
McConnell is drafting an organizing resolution that will outline the steps ahead. Approving it will be among their first votes of the trial, likely next Tuesday.