Timing of Trump impeachment trial uncertain as McConnell proposes delay

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet sent the article of impeachment against now-former President Donald Trump to the Senate, saying Thursday that she plans to consult her colleagues first.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to push back the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to mid-February to give the former president time to review the case.

The Senate cannot begin its trial until the article is formally sent over from the House, which voted 232-197 to impeach Trump on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” last week. The move came one week after the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and made Trump the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

In a statement, McConnell said he had sent his proposal to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. In it, McConnell proposed that the House of Representatives send the impeachment charge against Trump to the Senate on Jan. 28, and that the former president be given two weeks after that to prepare his pre-trial brief, before the Senate trial begins until mid-February.

“I’ll be talking with the managers as to when the Senate will be ready for the trial of the then-president of the United States for his role in instigating an insurrection on the Capitol of the United States,” Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday.

McConnell told his fellow GOP senators on a call Thursday that a short delay would give Trump time to prepare and stand up his legal team, ensuring due process.

Indiana Sen. Mike Braun said after the call that the trial might not begin “until sometime mid February.” He said that was “due to the fact that the process as it occurred in the House evolved so quickly, and that it is not in line with the time you need to prepare for a defense in a Senate trial.”

The timing will be set by Speaker Pelosi, who can trigger the start of the trial when she sends the House charges for “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate, and also by McConnell and Schumer, who are in negotiations over how to set up a 50-50 partisan divide in the Senate and the short-term agenda.

A source familiar with the planning said Pelosi could send the article of impeachment to the Senate as early as Friday. Under Senate rules, the trial would start a day after the House delivered the charge.

Schumer is in charge of the Senate, assuming the majority leader post after Democrats won two new Senate seats in Georgia and Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in Wednesday. But with such a narrow divide, Republicans will have some say over the trial’s procedure.

It’s up to the Senate to decide whether Trump is guilty of the impeachment charge, and the chamber could ultimately vote to ban him from ever holding office again. While Democrats narrowly took control of the Senate on Wednesday, at least two-thirds of the 100-member body are required to convict Trump.

Democrats are hoping to conduct the proceedings while also passing legislation that is a priority for Biden, including coronavirus relief, but they would need some cooperation from Senate Republicans to do that, as well.

Some Senate Republicans have argued that Congress should not put a former president on trial and to do so will further divide the country.

“I hope that Republicans won’t participate in this petty, vindictive, final attack directed at President Trump,” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said. “We should just move on.”

But Pelosi said: “Just because he’s now gone – thank God – you don’t say to a president, ‘Do whatever you want in the last month of your administration, you’re going to get a get-out-of-jail card free.”

“I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let’s just forget it and move on.’ That’s not how you unify,” she said.

Trump moved to his south Florida estate on Wednesday. Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him in his Senate impeachment. His plans remain unclear, but he has retained a small group of former White House aides who will work from his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Read McConnell’s full statement on HIS proposed schedule for Trump’s impeachement trial:

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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