WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday blocked a quick Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump but did not rule out that he might eventually vote to convict the now twice-impeached president.
Minutes after the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump, McConnell suggested in a statement that Trump’s Senate trial will not start before Jan. 19, the chamber’s next scheduled business day. It’s also the day before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated as president and about the time Democrats take over majority control of the Senate. The timetable essentially means McConnell is dropping the trial into Democrats’ laps.
“There is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial” could end before Biden takes office, McConnell wrote. He said it will “best serve our nation” if the government spends the coming week “completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power” to Biden.
“The House of Representatives has voted to impeach the President. The Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article from the House.
“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week. The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively.
“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact. The President-elect himself stated last week that his inauguration on January 20 is the ‘quickest’ path for any change in the occupant of the presidency.
“In light of this reality, I believe it will best serve our nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden Administration. I am grateful to the offices and institutions within the Capitol that are working around the clock, alongside federal and local law enforcement, to prepare for a safe and successful inauguration at the Capitol next Wednesday.”U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
In a letter to his GOP colleagues, McConnell acknowledged he’s not determined whether Trump should be convicted of the House charge that he incited insurrection by exhorting supporters who violently attacked the Capitol last week, resulting in five deaths and a disruption of Congress as they worked to certify the Electoral College votes for Biden.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote.
The Senate is in recess but can be summoned to return for an emergency session if the two-party leaders, McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agree. Schumer wanted an emergency meeting to hold the trial and remove Trump from office before his term expires, but a McConnell spokesman said GOP aides told Schumer’s office that McConnell would not agree.
The Democratic-led House approved an impeachment article accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, an unprecedented second impeachment of his presidency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.