After hosting a reception in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Mr Trump was flying to his Florida estate at Mar-a-Lago where he is to spend the holidays, having become just the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
On Thursday, the president said he wanted an “immediate” trial in the Senate, where he and Republicans are confident they have the number to clear him and allow him to stay in office.
But House speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far declined to send the two articles passed by the House – one of abuse of power and one of obstruction of Congress – to the upper chamber, or identify the congressional “managers” who will present the case. Mr Trump’s legal team has gone as far as to suggest that by not formally passing on the articles, the president may not technically be impeached.
“So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial,” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!”
In all likelihood, Ms Pelosi’s move is probably part of a strategy to try and help Democrats secure the best terms for pressing their case in the Senate. The party’s leader there, senator Chuck Schumer, has said he wants to call four former or current White House officials, to give evidence.
But the Republican Senate leader, senator Mitch McConnell has declined to do so, and admitted his is not merely going to be a neutral bystander. “I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” he said.
Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was impeached by a Republican-controlled House and prepared for a trial in a Senate controlled by Democrats, there was similar wrangling between both parties. A deal was eventually hammered out.
On Friday afternoon, as politicians from both parties departed for the Christmas holiday recess and the president was obliged to lick his wounds in Florida, he again attacked the speaker on Twitter, saying: “Nancy Pelosi is looking for a Quid Pro Quo with the Senate. Why aren’t we Impeaching her?
On Friday it was reported the office of White House counsel Pat Cipollone was ready for the Senate trial. CNN said Ms Pelosi was meanwhile considering who to select to oversee the case in the Senate.
“If the Senate decides we’re doing to have a full-blown trial with witnesses and cross examination, that might suggest a certain set of individuals with a certain skill set,” Democratic congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, told the network. “If instead, the Senate is going to limit it to some legal arguments or some constitutional arguments, that may suggest another set of managers.”
Though reports said House staff were preparing to work through the holidays to prepare for the trial, the departure of members of Congress to their own districts – along with the president – suggested deadlock.
The Hill said the next votes scheduled for the House are on 7 January, meaning Democrats will not be able to transmit articles or appoint impeachment managers before then.
At the same time, the Senate is expected to go on recess until 3 January. It said, that under the rules of the chambers, a Senate trial will start the day after the House sends the articles of impeachment, unless that day is a Sunday.
On Friday, Mr McConnell welcomed Mr Cipollone and legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, came to Capitol Hill to assess logistics.
“We have this fascinating situation where, following House Democrats’ rush to impeachment, following weeks of pronouncements about the urgency of this situation, the prosecutors have now developed cold feet,” Mr McConnell said late on Thursday, as his colleagues left the nation’s capital until the new year,
“We’ll continue to see how this develops, and whether the House Democrats ever work up the courage to take their accusations to trial.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press