Under pressure, top Democrat prolongs impeachment trial wait

US President Donald Trump faces an impeachment trial in the Senate, but congressional leaders have failed to agree on parameters of the historic proceedings (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Washington (AFP) - After weeks of delay and facing rising pressure to act, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she could "soon" send articles of impeachment to the Senate for President Donald Trump's upcoming trial.

The top Democrat in Congress reiterated her call for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to lay out the rules for the historic trial so she could "see the arena" in which the impeachment managers -- essentially prosecutors in the Senate trial -- will operate.

"Is that too much to ask?" she challenged.

Trump was impeached last month for abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations of Democrats including possible election rival Joe Biden; and for obstructing Congress's subsequent investigation.

Pelosi has played a waiting game since, declining to transmit the articles until McConnell provides assurances of a "fair" trial in which Democrats can call key witnesses and subpoena documents.

"I'm not holding on to them indefinitely," Pelosi said. "I'll send them over when I'm ready, and that will probably be soon."

Congress is in uncharted territory. Neither of the other two impeachment trials -- of Andrew Jackson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1999 -- were so delayed.

With the impasse dragging into its fourth week, McConnell announced Tuesday he had the necessary Republican votes to conduct a trial without acceding to Democratic demands.

"There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure," he said Wednesday.

McConnell wants to set initial trial parameters first, then address possible witnesses once the procedure has begun.

Democrats want to hear from four administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who have direct knowledge of Trump's Ukraine dealings.

Both were blocked by the White House from testifying in the House inquiry.