McConnell Proposes Trump Impeachment Trial for February

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial should be put off until next month to give the former president time to mount a defense.

McConnell said in a statement that he has sent his proposed plan to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and will “discuss it with him.”

“At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency,” the Kentucky Republican said.

The start of the trial is in limbo until Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the House’s single impeachment charge to the Senate. McConnell proposes that the process begin Jan. 28 and allow Trump a week to respond, with his pre-trial brief due the next week, Feb. 11, according to a timeline included with his statement.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, one of McConnell’s closest advisers, said the time is needed to ensure a fair process.

“I heard Nancy Pelosi said, ‘Well we don’t need any evidence, we all saw it on TV, and we lived through it,”’ Cornyn told reporters. “To me, that’s indicative of the haste with which they’re proceeding and I think, in fairness to anybody who’s accused of impeachable offenses there needs to be some fair process.”

Pelosi said Thursday that the article of impeachment against the former president would be sent to the Senate soon, triggering the start of his trial, but she refused to specify when. She said the House impeachment managers -- the prosecutors who will present the case against Trump -- are in contact with the Senate about the timing.

The article accuses Trump of inciting insurrection for stoking a crowd of his supporters on Jan. 6 who then stormed the Capitol in a riot that left five people dead. Sending the article to the Senate would require an almost immediate start for the trial, inevitably drawing attention away from President Joe Biden’s first days in office and potentially slowing confirmation of his cabinet picks.

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said he had spoken with Trump and McConnell about the trial and the former president “believes this is unconstitutional and damages the presidency, but you know he’s going to have his day in court and that’s the way the system works.”

”The president was shut out in the House so his team needs some time to prepare,” Graham said.

That team began to take shape on Thursday. Trump adviser Jason Miller said on Twitter that the former president has hired Butch Bowers, a lawyer in Columbia, South Carolina, as part of his legal team. His firm specializes in representing elected officials, government agencies and political campaigns, according to its website.

Graham said he knows Bowers and calls him a “solid guy” who would be the “anchor tenant” of Trump’s legal team.

The details of the trial procedures are part of the discussion between McConnell and Schumer.

“Make no mistake about it, there will be a trial,” Schumer said Thursday. “There will be a vote up or down on whether we should convict the president. I believe we should convict the president.”

Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman later said the majority leader “received Leader McConnell’s proposal that only deals with pre-trial motions late this afternoon. We will review it and discuss it with him.”

A Pelosi spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on McConnell’s proposal.

After Trump’s first impeachment on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Dec. 18, 2019, the House didn’t transmit the articles until Jan. 15, 2020. That trial concluded Feb. 5 with Trump’s acquittal.

Pelosi on Thursday dismissed the criticism from some Republicans that proceeding with the trial of Trump, who is no longer in office, would undermine the message of unity that Biden emphasized at his inauguration.

“I think we need to speak as soon as possible with as much unity as possible that a second impeachment of President Trump is bad for the country and we’re gonna fight that,” Graham said Wednesday.

Pelosi said the former president must be held accountable for his role in what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking to reporters later Thursday, said he didn’t blame Trump for the actions of his followers that day.

“I don’t believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally,” said McCarthy, who voted with other Republicans to object to certifying electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania after the riot by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election results. He said last week that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress.

At least 17 Republican Senators would have to join all 50 Democrats to convict Trump. The Senate could then vote to bar him from ever holding public office again with a separate vote by a simple majority.

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