Impeachment Briefing: Selecting the Managers

This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weeknight.

  • The House intends to vote this week on sending the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, prompting a trial in the coming days. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to consult with House Democrats Tuesday on the timing of such a move. John Cornyn, a senior Republican senator, said that he expected the trial to begin next Tuesday.

In the coming days, Ms. Pelosi is expected to choose a half dozen or so managers to argue on the Senate floor for President Trump’s removal from office. Those managers, who will be selected at least partly from the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, form just one element of a trial full of complicated procedures.

My colleague Emily Cochrane wrote on Sunday about the Republican impeachment managers in President Bill Clinton’s 1999 trial. “It is a job that veterans say is fraught with legal complexity, political pressure and historic significance,” Emily wrote. I asked her more about what makes the managers so important to impeachment.

Emily, why does this part of the process even exist? What is it there to do?

They’re quite literally managing the impeachment case. If we’re going to go with this analogy of the Senate being the grand jury of sorts, you need multiple prosecutors to present the case for removal. And the way it’s set up is that the very people who have decided to impeach the president are now going to present that case before the Senate.

This group of people will likely physically walk the articles from the House to the Senate. During the trial, they’ll present the arguments for impeachment on the Senate floor. At the Clinton trial, you had specific people to open the case, and people to give closing statements. Others split up the articles themselves, breaking them down and discussing their merits.

Why are the managers so unusual?

For a member of the House of Representatives, presenting and speaking in the Senate is a big, big deal. Normally lawmakers don’t even walk legislation over. They can physically be in the chamber at all times. But speaking privileges for House members are rare — the two previous Senate impeachment trials are examples.

How persuasive can the managers be? You’d think senators would know the case well by now.

While House Democrats were investigating the case, the Senate was conducting its own business of approving nominees, and some legislating. Some senators didn’t watch the public hearings and said they were waiting for the case to come before them, since they saw themselves as impartial jurors and didn’t want to be influenced by the public hearings.

What is your sense of how Ms. Pelosi is dreaming up her team?

Just like the decision of when she’s sending over the articles, she’s holding this close. It’s all but certain that it will be fewer than 13 people — the number of managers in the 1999 trial — and it will be more diverse. In the Clinton trial, there were 13 white men, but she’s in charge of the most diverse caucus in the history of the House of Representatives and will want a group that’s representative of that. It’s likely that Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, the two faces of impeachment in the House thus far, will lead the group.

Mr. Trump at one point preferred a longer trial, one that could feature a theatrical defense from figures like Jim Jordan and Doug Collins, two of his favorite House Republicans, and testimony from witnesses like Hunter Biden. On Sunday, Mr. Trump said a trial shouldn’t take place at all.

But as my colleague Maggie Haberman wrote, the president is deferring to the judgment of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, about what’s appropriate. Mr. McConnell, Maggie reported, is wary of how some witnesses may introduce volatility.

She also wrote about the White House’s ongoing planning for its defense team at the trial, which will be led by Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. I asked her about how the White House is preparing.

Maggie, Mr. Cipollone is quiet and restrained — not the personality of someone you might think was a natural fit for a very public trial. Why is the White House going with him as a lead defense lawyer?

Mr. Cipollone has sought to make impeachment his purview since the beginning. It’s also not surprising to involve Mr. Cipollone in the sense that the White House is claiming a wide berth of executive privilege around the impeachment case, and he’s the head of the legal team there.

It’s notable because so much of the Senate trial is a made-for-the-public event that will be aired on television. And Mr. Trump is very aware of how things play on television. He has been asking people for awhile if Mr. Cipollone will be effective on television. By contrast, Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer, is much more familiar with the milieu of television. Mr. Sekulow will be there every day.

I find it interesting that the White House counsel — the White House’s lawyer, not Mr. Trump’s — and one of the president’s personal lawyers are teaming up to defend Mr. Trump. That sounds like a complicated mix of interests.

There was something similar during the Clinton impeachment trial, where the White House counsel argued parts, but David Kendall, Mr. Clinton’s personal lawyer, was also on hand. The Trump team has tried to emulate a fair amount of what was done in 1999.

So as unusual as Mr. Trump’s approach has been to the office, I think there will be more here that is historically grounded than we’ve seen at other times in the Trump presidency. At least, more in terms of how they shape the defense. What’s noteworthy is that this is the first outing of the White House defense since this began. They chose not to present a defense — a traditional one — during the House impeachment hearings.

  • Politico wrote about Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian — the rules maestro — who will help Chief Justice John Roberts navigate the procedural elements of the trial.

  • My colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote about how the trial poses risks and rewards for Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, who must hold together Senate Democrats (including several running for president) while securing the cooperation of some Republicans he is working to defeat in November.

  • A new Quinnipiac poll found that voters were almost perfectly split on whether they supported the House’s impeachment of Mr. Trump. There was a similar split on the question of whether the Senate should remove the president.


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