Pelosi threatens to delay Trump impeachment trial in bid to pressure McConnell

Key Points
  • After the Democratic-led House impeached President Trump, the process will move to the Republican-led Senate.
  • But Speaker Pelosi says she wants to see how McConnell would lay out the Senate trial's rules before she sends over the articles of impeachment.
  • She may be jockeying for more power before relinquishing control of the process to Republicans.
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference after the House passed Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2019. -
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

After the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi began a game of chicken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a press conference following the historic vote Wednesday night, Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill she wanted to see how McConnell, R-Ky., would lay out the trial's rules before she sent over the articles to the Senate.

"We can't name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side and I would hope that would be soon. So far, we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us," Pelosi said.

The House impeached Trump, setting up trial in the Senate
The House impeached Trump, setting up trial in the Senate

Pelosi's stance was an apparent attempt to pressure McConnell, who will hold significant power once the impeachment proceedings are passed from the Democrat-led House to the GOP-controlled Senate.

McConnell did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.

The House voted to impeach Trump nearly along party lines on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Constitution mandates that the Senate will conduct a trial to decide whether to convict Trump and remove him from office.

As part of the Senate trial, House Democrats will select so-called impeachment managers to appear before the Senate and share findings from their three-month inquiry into Trump's Ukraine dealings. House managers have historically been members of Congress, who assume the role of prosecutors in the Senate trial.

There is no set time frame for Pelosi to follow to carry out this step. But she suggested Wednesday night that she will hold off until she receives assurances about the Senate trial proceedings.

"This is what I don't consider a fair trial," she said when pressed by reporters. "That leader McConnell has stated that he's not an impartial juror, that he's going to take his cues, in quotes, from the White House, and he's working in total coordination with the White House counsel's office."

Trump just got impeached by the House—Here's what happens next
Trump just got impeached by the House—Here's what happens next

Pelosi was referring to comments made earlier this week by McConnell, who told reporterslast week that "I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it."

In impeachments, the party in the majority devises the rules, and lawmakers tend to use a combination of precedent from prior impeachments and whatever tactics are going to be most politically advantageous in the unique situation.

While the process was in the House, Democrats structured the impeachment hearings this fall in such a way as to ensure that they would have uninterrupted chunks of time in which to lay out a complicated narrative that involved dozens of individuals for the public without disruption from Republicans.

At the opening of the House impeachment hearings, Democrats made sure each party's chairman and lawyers would get 45 minutes to speak without interruption.

— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger and Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.

The US House votes to impeach President Trump for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress
US House votes to impeach Pres. Trump for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress