A group of House Democrats is pushing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders to withhold the articles of impeachment against President Trump that emerged from the House on Wednesday, potentially delaying a Senate trial for months.
The notion of impeaching Trump but holding the articles in the House has gained traction among some of the political left as a way to potentially force Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to conduct a trial on more favorable terms for Democrats. And if no agreement is reached, some have argued, the trial could be delayed indefinitely, denying Trump an expected acquittal.
The gambit has gained some traction inside the left wing of the House Democratic Caucus this week. Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, said Wednesday, as his colleagues debated the impeachment articles on the House floor, that he has spoken to three dozen Democratic lawmakers who expressed some level of enthusiasm for the idea of ‘‘rounding out the record and spending the time to do this right.’’
‘‘At a minimum, there ought to be an agreement about access to witnesses, rules of the game, timing,’’ Blumenauer said of a Senate trial.
Another Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said there is ‘‘serious concern about whether there will be a fair trial on the Senate side’’ and acknowledged active talks about withholding the articles.
After the impeachment vote Wednesday, Pelosi would not rule out the idea of withholding the articles.
The notion has been most prominently advocated by Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who has advised the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment process. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, he wrote that ‘‘the public has a right to observe a meaningful trial rather than simply learn that the result is a verdict of not guilty.’’
Senate minority leader Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, has asked McConnell to call several Trump administration witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. McConnell has dismissed those requests and signaled that he expects to hold a relatively short trial that will end with a summary dismissal of the impeachment charges.
Republicans have scoffed at the notion of the House withholding the articles, noting it hardly counts as leverage to deny the GOP the ability to remove a president that the party wants to keep in place. Some aides further argued that withholding the articles would only fuel Republican arguments that Democrats are engaged in a partisan abuse of the Constitution.
Democratic leaders may be forced to deal with the issue in the coming days. Blumenauer said he had already raised the issue with House majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and other top Democrats, as well as Pelosi.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Hoyer did not rule out the idea: ‘‘It’s an interesting proposal. I don’t think that that’s the path we will follow, but that does not mean we will immediately deliver it. There are considerations related to other legislation.’’
A senior Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the impeachment articles will not be immediately transmitted to the Senate Wednesday. Rather, they will be held until Pelosi names impeachment managers, the House members who will present the case for Trump’s removal in the Senate.
‘‘There will be a debate and vote on that resolution’’ naming the managers, the aide said. If a significant number of Democrats refuse to vote for that resolution, they could force the issue.
The timing of that vote is unclear; the House is expected to recess for the winter holidays as soon as Thursday and not return until Jan. 7.
Blumenauer said that if McConnell does not agree to call the Democratic witnesses and stage a fair trial, Democrats could simply hold on to the articles and continue to investigate Trump. The House is involved in multiple court cases seeking documents and testimony that have yet to be resolved.
‘‘Who knows what would happen to augment the record? This ought to be able to play out,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s no advantage to rushing this.’’
But the notion of prolonging the impeachment process indefinitely is almost certain to infuriate House members from competitive districts, who have pushed Pelosi for months to keep the investigation focused and limited to Trump’s Ukraine conduct.