Pelosi says she won't withhold impeachment articles "indefinitely"

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

Pelosi to send impeachment articles "soon"

Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's not withholding articles of impeachment from the Senate "indefinitely" and will probably send them over "soon," responding to mounting pressure to allow the Senate to open proceedings in President Trump's impeachment trial.

"You will keep asking me the same question, I will keep giving you the same answer," Pelosi said in her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning. "As I said right from the start, we need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?"

Pelosi has previously said the House will not deliver the articles to the Senate until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publishes a resolution laying out the rules for the trial.

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"I'm not holding them indefinitely. I will send them over when I'm ready and that will probably be soon," she added.

Pelosi also countered the Republican argument that Democrats are afraid to send the articles to the upper chamber.

"We are ready. We are proud of our defense of the Constitution of the United States," Pelosi said, adding that the House was "concerned" senators would not honor the oath they take to conduct an impartial impeachment trial.

She cited new evidence that has emerged as the House and the Senate have been locked in this "impasse," such as emails from Pentagon officials expressing concern about withholding military aid from Ukraine. The speaker indicated it was more important to move strategically than quickly.

"I think we should move smartly and strategically," Pelosi added. "I'm not responsible to Mitch McConnell, or anybody else, except my members."

Congress Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks on Capitol Hill on Thursday, January 9, 2020. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

For his part, McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday that the upper chamber would move on to its legislative agenda if Pelosi continues to withhold the articles.

"The House Majority can create this temporary cloud over a commander in chief if they choose — if they choose — but they do not get to keep the cloud in place forever," he said.

McConnell announced Tuesday that Republicans have the votes to pass the organizing resolution determining the rules of the trial, which would mirror the procedures used in the Clinton impeachment trial. The resolution would allow for opening statements from House prosecutors and the president's defense team before the Senate votes on whether to call witnesses or consider new evidence. Democrats have pushed for an agreement on witnesses and evidence before a trial gets underway.

A growing number of fellow Democrats have said in recent days that the time to proceed with the trial has come, including Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee. Smith told CNN on Thursday that he believes "it is time to send impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial. He ultimately is."

Asked to respond to Smith's comments before her press conference on Thursday, Pelosi said she is "a big fan of his" and is not concerned about losing the support of members of the Democratic caucus.

Smith quickly tried to walk back his comments, tweeting that he "misspoke" and believes "we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial."

Pelosi also discussed a vote set for later in the day on a resolution to limit Mr. Trump's authority to strike Iran under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, as Democrats attempt to reassert Congress' constitutional authority to declare war amid a tense standoff.

Pelosi unveiled the resolution on Wednesday, saying it would be sent to the House floor for a vote on Thursday. The resolution is sponsored by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a freshman Democrat and former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense.

The speaker said Thursday that the concurrent resolution has "real teeth," dispute legal questions about the validity of the move.

"This is a statement by the Congress of the United States and I will not have that statement diminished" by a veto, Pelosi said. She also condemned the administration for not notifying Congress before a strike on Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani last week.

"We must avoid war. And the cavalier attitude of this administration is stunning," she said.

First published on January 9, 2020 / 9:49 AM

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Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.