McConnell: Push Trump Trial to Feb. 01/22 06:26
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to push back the start
of Donald Trump's impeachment trial to February to give the former president
time to prepare and review his case.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to
push back the start of Donald Trump's impeachment trial to February to give the
former president time to prepare and review his case.
House Democrats who voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting the deadly
Jan. 6 Capitol riot have signaled they want to move quickly to trial as
President Joe Biden begins his term, saying a full reckoning is necessary
before the country --- and the Congress --- can move on.
But McConnell in a statement Thursday evening suggested a more expansive
timeline that would see the House transmit the article of impeachment next
week, on Jan. 28, launching the trial's first phase. After that, the Senate
would give the president's defense team and House prosecutors two weeks to file
briefs. Arguments in the trial would likely begin in mid-February.
"Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the
institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President
Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and
the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake," especially
given the unprecedented speed of the House process, McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is reviewing the plan and will
discuss it with McConnell, a spokesperson said. The two leaders are also
negotiating how the new 50-50 Senate will work and how they will balance other
A trial delay could appeal to some Democrats, as it would give the Senate
more time to confirm Biden's Cabinet nominees and debate a new round of
coronavirus relief. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a key ally of the
president's, told CNN that Democrats would consider a delay "if we are making
progress on confirming the very talented, seasoned and diverse team that
President Joe Biden has nominated."
The ultimate power over timing rests with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who
can trigger the start of the trial at any point by sending to the Senate the
charge of incitement of an insurrection. The California Democrat has not yet
said when she will do that.
"It will be soon. I don't think it will be long, but we must do it," Pelosi
said Thursday. She said Trump doesn't deserve a "get-out-of-jail card" just
because he has left office and Biden and others are calling for national unity.
Facing his second impeachment trial in two years, Trump began to assemble
his defense team by hiring attorney Butch Bowers to represent him, according to
an adviser. Bowers previously served as counsel to former South Carolina Govs.
Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina helped Trump find Bowers
after members of his past legal teams indicated they did not plan to join the
new effort. Trump is at a disadvantage compared to his first trial, in which he
had the full resources of the White House counsel's office to defend him.
Pelosi's nine impeachment managers, who will be prosecuting the House case,
have been regularly meeting to discuss strategy. Pelosi said she would talk to
them "in the next few days" about when the Senate might be ready for a trial.
Shortly before the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump told thousands of his
supporters at a rally near the White House to "fight like hell" against the
election results that Congress was certifying. A mob marched down to the
Capitol and rushed in, interrupting the count. Five people, including a Capitol
Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached Trump a week later,
with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support.
Pelosi said it would be "harmful to unity" to forget that "people died here
on Jan. 6, the attempt to undermine our election, to undermine our democracy,
to dishonor our Constitution."
Trump was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate at his first impeachment
trial. The White House legal team, aided by Trump's personal lawyers,
aggressively fought the House charges that he had encouraged the president of
Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for military aid. This time around,
Pelosi noted, the House is not seeking to convict the president over private
conversations but for a very public insurrection that they themselves
experienced and that played out on live television.
"This year, the whole world bore witness to the president's incitement,"
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said it was still too
early to know how long a trial would take or if Democrats would want to call
witnesses. But he said, "You don't need to tell us what was going on with the
mob scene we were rushing down the staircase to escape."
McConnell, who said this week that Trump "provoked" his supporters before
the riot, has not said how he will vote. He told his GOP colleagues that it
will be a vote of conscience.
Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict
Trump, a high bar. While a handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they
are open to conviction, most have said they believe a trial will be divisive
and questioned the legality of trying a president after he has left office.
Graham said that if he were Trump's lawyer, he would focus on that argument
and on the merits of the case --- and whether it was "incitement" under the law.
"I guess the public record is your television screen," Graham said. "So, I
don't see why this would take a long time."