Trump Accepts Pelosi’s State of Union Invite Despite Impeachment
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump accepted an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver his annual State of the Union address to a joint meeting of Congress, two days after she oversaw his impeachment.
The Feb. 4 speech may fall in the middle of Trump’s Senate trial for alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, or it may give Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell extra incentive to wrap up the proceedings.
McConnell, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are wrangling over the contours of the trial, its length and whether witnesses will be called.
Pelosi’s invitation reflects the political reality that the chances Trump will be removed from office by the Republican-controlled Senate, either by February or later, are remote.
Checks and Balances
“In their great wisdom, our founders crafted a Constitution based on a system of separation of powers: three co-equal branches acting as checks on each other,” Pelosi said in her letter to Trump on Friday.
“In the spirit of respecting our Constitution, I invite you to deliver your State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in the chamber of the House of Representatives,” Pelosi wrote.
In a scathing letter to Pelosi on Tuesday, Trump said that “do-nothing” Democrats were committing an unconstitutional abuse of power in impeaching him.
“More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials,” Trump wrote.
The State of the Union will put Trump in the same room with the House Democrats who made him the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.
A State of the Union address during an impeachment trial is not without precedent. In 1999, President Bill Clinton gave his address during his Senate impeachment trial.
The House voted on a nearly party-line basis with 229 Democrats and one independent voting to impeach him for allegedly abusing his power by withholding financial aid and a White House meeting as a way to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. No Republicans voted for that article and two Democrats voted against it.
Three Democrats voted against the second article, which alleges that Trump obstructed Congress’s investigation into the Ukraine situation.
Plans for a Senate trial are on hold for now. Pelosi has delayed sending the two articles to the Senate in an attempt to pressure McConnell, who wants a quick trial, to allow witnesses. Many House Democrats fear the Republican-controlled Senate will swiftly move to acquit the president without examining evidence.
“I’m not sure what leverage there is in refraining from sending us something we do not want,” McConnell said on the Senate floor late Thursday. If Democrats never send over the articles of impeachment, he said, that’s “fine with me.”
The Senate returns to Washington for votes the week of Jan. 6, at which point the trial may begin.
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