December 10, 2019 / 3:20 PM / 2 months ago

White House will wait for Senate trial to address impeachment charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will address the impeachment charges announced on Tuesday during the Senate trial phase of the proceedings, the White House said, continuing to choose not to argue the merits of the charges ahead of an expected vote by the Democratic-led House.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he heads to the Marine One helicopter to depart the White House for travel to Florida in Washington, U.S. October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The statement did not make clear how he would address the charges. Asked in an interview with Fox News whether Trump would testify, Grisham said she did not know.

“I’m not going to get ahead of what he may do but I’m sure we’ll participate in some way, certainly with our counsel,” she said. “And we’re going to be calling on witnesses and we hope that they will participate.”

Calling the process partisan and lacking in fairness, Trump and his allies have sought to paint his Democratic accusers as seeking to undo his 2016 election.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives announced formal articles of impeachment against Trump on Tuesday, accusing him of abusing power by pressuring Ukraine to probe a political rival and obstructing Congress’ investigation into the scandal.

The House could vote as soon as next week. The charges conclude weeks of investigation and hearings, which Trump has derided as one-sided and failing to offer him a fair opportunity to present his side. The White House has refused repeated requests for senior officials to testify and for relevant documents.

The House is almost certain to approve impeachment along partisan lines. A trial would then likely be held in January in the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans. No Republican in the House or Senate has come out in favor of convicting Trump and removing him from office.

WITNESS TESTIMONY?

Trump has raised the prospect of having his political adversaries forced to testify in the Senate, a move that he has argued will vindicate him while damaging those who have sought to impeach him.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised the prospect that the Senate could hold a vote on the articles of impeachment without hearing from witnesses.

The Senate “could decide ... that they’ve heard enough and they believe they know what would happen and could move to vote,” McConnell told reporters.

McConnell said no decisions had been made about how the chamber would ultimately proceed.

Trump and his allies have sought to depict the impeachment process as a net gain for the president - arguing that the Democratic-led effort has pushed his supporters to back him more staunchly. Republicans are also trying to leverage the process to attack Democrats in congressional districts the party may be able to pick up in the 2020 election.

“The announcement of two baseless articles of impeachment does not hurt the President, it hurts the American people, who expect their elected officials to work on their behalf to strengthen our Nation,” Grisham said in the statement.

Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney

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