Exactly four weeks after the House adopted two articles of impeachment for President Donald Trump, Democrats in the chamber took the first step Wednesday toward sending the charges over to the Senate for trial.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named seven Democratic lawmakers as managers in the case. The managers will present the case against Trump at the upper chamber's trial, which is expected to begin next week. They are intelligence committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, judiciary committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Val Demings of Florida, Zoe Lofgren of California, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia Garcia of Texas.
"Today is an important day," Pelosi said at a press briefing. "The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our constitution, to seek the truth for the American people."
A House vote to send the articles to the Senate is scheduled for early Wednesday afternoon. The measure is expected to pass. If it does, the Senate trial is expected to begin early next week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
Ahead of the historic trial, the White House is finalizing the legal team that will defend Trump.
Jay Sekulow, Trump's personal attorney, said he's part of a legal team headed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone that will defend the president against two impeachable charges that were passed by the House last month. The articles of impeachment -- accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress -- have been held for weeks by House Democrats, who said they first wanted to see a trial blueprint from Senate leaders to ensure a fair process.
Cipollone and Sekulow will be joined on the team by White House attorneys Patrick Philbin and Michael Purpura, the Washington Examiner reported.
The charges against Trump stem from his dealings with Ukraine last year -- specifically, his efforts pressing Kiev to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, a former board member of a Ukrainian gas company.
Cipollone, 53, has been a vocal critic of the House's impeachment process and is considered the main force behind White House efforts that blocked most witnesses in the administration from testifying during the lower chamber's inquiry.
An Oct. 8 White House letter called the process "partisan and unconstitutional" and made a case for a broad interpretation of executive privilege covering nearly every aspect of presidential conduct.
Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer hoped to persuade McConnell to allow certain witnesses and new evidence at trial. The stalemate ended, however, when the Kentucky Republican said this week he's already secured enough support in the chamber to move ahead without Democrats' involvement.
House Democrats released an example of the new evidence on Tuesday -- documents they say shows Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. They said the records, provided by an attorney for Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, also indicate U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had been placed under surveillance.
Yovanovitch, who was removed from her diplomatic post last May, was among a number of witnesses who testified during the House impeachment hearings. She said Trump mounted a "smear campaign" as retaliation for her opposition to Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine.
In light of the new evidence, Yovanovitch is now calling for an investigation of the surveillance claims, which she called "disturbing."