Pelosi advances impeachment process, clearing way for Trump's trial

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't get everything she wanted by delaying impeachment articles, but she's not empty-handed, either.
Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Holds Her Weekly Press Conference At The Capitol
House Speaker Nancy PelosiWin McNamee / Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

The original expectation was that the U.S. House would vote on articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, which would soon be followed by a trial in the U.S. Senate. That's not quite what happened: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held onto the articles, seeking more information on the Senate's process, which had the effect of delaying the proceedings.

Nearly a month later, the California Democrat is now prepared to advance the process. NBC News reported this morning:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the House will vote Wednesday to send the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, three sources in a Democratic caucus meeting told NBC News on Tuesday.

Sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate is necessary to begin the trial. Pelosi on Wednesday will also name the House "managers" who will prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate, the sources said.

As things stand, after tomorrow's floor vote in the House, the Senate can vote on its own process, and the general consensus is that the trial in the upper chamber will get under way a week from today.

Though Democrats hoped to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) into adopting trial rules that would mandate the role of witnesses, that's almost certainly not going to happen. That said, several Republican senators are reportedly prepared to vote on whether to hear from witnesses after the trial is underway.

There's no shortage of questions about how the process is likely to unfold in the coming days -- we don't yet know who the impeachment managers will be, for example, or whether GOP senators will bother pushing a "motion to dismiss" -- but it's also worth pausing to consider what Pelosi has to show for her efforts.

I suspect her detractors will say, "Not much." After all, McConnell didn't budge, and Democrats haven't received any commitments that would help ensure a fair evidentiary trial.

But there's a flip side to the picture. After holding the impeachment articles for nearly a month, Pelosi allowed investigations to continue and more incriminating information to come to light, which wasn't yet available when her chamber voted on Dec. 18.

Her efforts also helped change the nature of the conversation -- appetite among Senate Republicans for witnesses was at best muted a month ago, and it's grown since -- putting legitimate process concerns up front and center. Meanwhile, GOP opposition to a "motion to dismiss" has reached the point at which its support is evaporating.

It'd obviously be overstating it to argue that Pelosi got everything she wanted out of the delay, but all things considered, the White House appears to be in a worse position now than it was the day after the president was impeached.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog