Can Congress Impeach Without A Trial? Not So Fast
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing mounting pressure from Congress to transmit articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, but she's not budging yet. Ever since the House of Representatives officially impeached Trump on Dec. 18, 2019, Pelosi has been holding on to the articles of impeachment. The White House has characterized impeachment as Democrats' attempt to "weaponize politics," but did not previously return a request for comment on the impeachment vote. But for weeks, Pelosi has held off on sending the impeachment articles to the Senate for a trial, arguing the Senate needed to guarantee a fair impeachment trial first. It wasn't until Friday, Jan. 10 that Pelosi announced she would release them to the Senate soon. But can Congress impeach a president without a trial? Pelosi's delay doesn't significantly affect the impeachment process.
Technically, a president is impeached following a successful House vote — but removal requires a trial (and conviction) in the Senate. Per the Constitution, the House has the sole authority to impeach a president, but it does not have the ability to remove a president from office under a trial. Only the Senate can do that. Conversely, the Senate does not have the power to impeach a president, but only the Senate can organize an impeachment trial and vote on a president's potential removal from office.
The Senate can't actually organize an impeachment trial, however, until the House Speaker officially transmits the articles of impeachment to the Senate. On Jan. 10, Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues, in which she stated that the House could send the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as next week.
“I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate,” Pelosi said in her letter, per The Washington Post. Pelosi did not provide a specific date for when the House would take a vote on this resolution.
Pelosi's not the only one standing firm. According to The Hill, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is co-sponsoring a resolution that would change Senate rules and allow senators to dismiss the impeachment charges against Trump before the articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate. If the Senate does manage to change its rules, which would require a two-thirds majority vote, then the House would have 25 days to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate. If the House doesn't send over the impeachment articles within this 25-day period, then any senator could introduce a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump without organizing an impeachment trial.
It likely won't get to this point, as Pelosi has signaled her intent to send over the articles to the Senate soon. However, Pelosi and many of her fellow Democrats are evidently frustrated with Republicans' approach to the impeachment trial, and Republicans seem to be in no rush to change that.