Top House Democrat: 'Time to send' articles of impeachment to Senate

Access to the comments Comments
By Allan Smith and Frank Thorp V  with NBC News Politics
Image: Adam Smith
Adam Smith leaves the CVC Auditorium during a break in the House Democrats' organizational caucus meeting on Nov. 28, 2018.   -   Copyright  Bill Clark CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Thursday that "it is time" for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to transmit the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate.

Smith's call comes as several Democratic senators this week have pushed for Pelosi to send the articles to the Senate so the trial can begin.

"I understand what the speaker is trying to do, basically trying to use the leverage of that to work with Democratic and Republican senators to try to get a reasonable trial, a trial that would actually show evidence, bring out witnesses," Smith told CNN. "But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate."

"I think it was perfectly advisable for the speaker to try to leverage that to get a better deal," he continued. "At this point, it doesn't look like that is going to happen. And yes, I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial. He ultimately is."

Democratic senators such as Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have made similar comments in recent days.

"I don't quite know what the strategy is, but it doesn't — if you're going to do it, do it, if you're not going to do it, don't," Feinstein told NBC News. "And obviously they're going to do it, so I don't understand the delay."

Pelosi haswithheld the articles since her chamber adopted them last month, saying she will not transmit them until the Senate process is explicitly laid out. But she suggested she could soon submit them.

"It is important that [McConnell] immediately publish this resolution, so that, as I have said before, we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate," Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues Tuesday.

No trial can begin until the articles are sent.

McConnell, R-Ky., has said he wants the Senate to conform to the procedure from former President Bill Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial, which amounted to a two-step process: an initial agreement to hear the case and a later vote to decide whether to call witnesses.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pushed for a single resolution that would set parameters for presenting the case and calling witnesses. Schumer wants the Senate to call four witnesses to testify about Trump's Ukraine conduct, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who announced this week he would testify if subpoenaed, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

McConnell, who in December vowed "total coordination" with the White House on the impeachment trial proceedings, said Tuesday he has the votesto set his desired process.

Last month, the House approved the two articles of impeachment against Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

"PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" Trump tweeted Thursday morning, repeating a refrain he and top Republicans have been using since Democrats won the House majority late last year.