clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The House just voted to kick-start Trump’s impeachment trial

They’re officially sending the articles of impeachment over, meaning the trial can now begin.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands speaking at a podium flanked by other members of the House of Representatives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces impeachment managers for the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, January 15, 2020.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over to the Senate — finally taking the procedural step necessary for Trump’s trial to begin.

The resolution also names the House’s impeachment managers: the team Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen to prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate. They’ll be led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. The team will also include Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Val Demings (D-FL), Jason Crow (D-CO), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Senate leaders have said they anticipate beginning the trial on Tuesday, January 21. But before that, the impeachment managers will ceremonially present the articles in the Senate. It will be the third presidential impeachment trial in US history, though Trump is overwhelmingly expected to be acquitted and remain in office, due to Republicans’ Senate majority.

The House’s votes to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress occurred nearly a month ago, on December 18. But that night, Pelosi made the surprising announcement that she wouldn’t send the articles over to the Senate just yet, arguing she wanted more information about their plans for the trial first.

Democrats argued that, because Trump clearly wanted to be acquitted, to get impeachment behind him, withholding the articles gave them some leverage over Republicans and could force concessions from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about how the trial will work. McConnell, however, did not budge. He offered no concessions and won the support from enough Senate Republicans for his own trial plan.

Yet the thorniest issue — the question of whether witnesses will be called, as Democrats are demanding — still hasn’t been solved. McConnell only won the support to postpone deciding on that. The Senate will hear opening arguments, then there will be a question-and-answer period, and then they will decide on witnesses.

Who are the impeachment managers, and what will they do?

On Wednesday morning, Pelosi announced the seven impeachment managers, who will be tasked with arguing to the Senate that Trump should be removed from office over his attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, and over his administration’s stonewalling of Congress’s inquiry into that matter.

And though the action is moving to the Senate, it’s actually the impeachment managers — and Trump’s legal team — who will be doing most of the talking there. Senators, whose role in the proceedings combines aspects of a jury and a court, are mostly not permitted to speak during the trial’s proceedings. (At a certain point, they can submit written questions, which will be read out by Chief Justice John Roberts.) So this will be a very high-profile job for these seven impeachment managers.

Pelosi said she chose this team due to their experience as “litigators” and their “comfort level in the courtroom.” But overall, the lineup is dominated by close allies of leadership rather than firebrand liberals. Notably, it does not include Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), the former Republican who left his party over his support for the impeachment inquiry, and who some Democratic moderates had suggested be on the team.

The lineup is smaller than the roster of 13 impeachment managers House Republicans chose when they impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998, suggesting that Pelosi preferred a more coherent case rather than handing out these high-profile gigs to reward as many members as possible.

Lofgren is a noteworthy choice since she played a role in both recent impeachment efforts: She was a Judiciary Committee staffer during the Nixon inquiry, and she was a member of that committee during Clinton’s impeachment. Vox’s Ezra Klein interviewed Lofgren about this last year.

Crow, meanwhile, is an unusual pick, since he is a first-term House member who serves on neither of the key committees involved in the inquiry (Judiciary and Intelligence). However, he is a lawyer, a veteran, and a moderate — and Pelosi likely hopes he will come off as reasonable to a national audience.

For more on what the impeachment managers will do and what the rest of the trial will look like, check out our longer explainer on what comes next.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.