Senate Has No Way to Sidestep an Impeachment Inquiry, Aide Says

Ros Krasny

(Bloomberg) -- There’s no way the U.S. Senate can avoid receiving articles of impeachment on President Donald Trump if the House of Representatives votes in favor of formal charges, according to a Republican Senate leadership aide.

Under U.S. law, the House’s role is to consider articles of impeachment against an individual -- in this case, the president. If approved, the Senate then considers whether to remove that person from office.

The aide laid out guidance on what may happen in the Senate, saying the GOP-led body and its leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, can’t simply ignore the outcome in the House, where Democrats hold the majority, and take no action -- as some recent reports by the Washington Post and Politico have implied.

The rules of impeachment are clear on that point, the aide said, and questions have been asked and answered in the past. The aide cited a 1986 memo from then-Parliamentarian Robert Dove to then-Secretary for the Majority Howard Greene.

In that memo, Dove wrote that “both the rules and the precedents argue for a rapid disposition of any impeachment trial in the United States Senate.”

The House “must immediately be informed that the Senate is ready to receive the managers ‘whensoever the Senate shall receive notice’ of an impeachment,” Dove wrote.

Precedent Set

The Senate’s impeachment trial, he wrote, must begin at 1 p.m. each day, except for Sundays, and continue until a final judgment is rendered.

An earlier precedent to refer the question of impeachment to committee, as was done in the case of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, was nullified by the adoption of specific Senate rules on the matter. It would take a two-thirds vote to suspend those rules.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set House Democrats on a course toward the impeachment of Trump. The case centers on an allegation that Trump improperly solicited the help of a foreign leader -- the president of Ukraine -- to investigate a political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.

Pelosi was asked Saturday if McConnell had the ability to “Merrick Garland this deal,” a reference to the Senate leader’s decision not to consider the President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court in 2016, under the guise of waiting for the next election.

“Oh, he could. He could,” Pelosi said during a question-and-answer session at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. “But I think he said he is going to have a hearing.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ros Krasny in Washington at rkrasny1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, James Ludden

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