McConnell Says Inauguration Should Be Focus Before Trial
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, speaks to members of the media following the Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg)

McConnell Says Inauguration Should Be Focus Before Trial

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican senators he’s reached no decision on whether he’ll vote to convict President Donald Trump on the House’s impeachment charge, and he doesn’t plan to call an emergency session to begin the Senate trial before Jan. 19.

In a letter to GOP colleagues obtained by Bloomberg, McConnell said regardless of when the Senate trial begins, there won’t be time to reach a verdict before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.

“There has never been any chance that any fair or appropriate trial would conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in,” McConnell said. “In light of this reality, I believe it will serve our nation best if both 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.”

The House voted 232-197 Wednesday to impeach Trump on one article charging him with incitement of insurrection. Ten Republicans joined with all Democrats in favor of impeachment.

McConnell has been under increasing pressure to take a public stand on the impeachment after last week’s storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. President-elect Joe Biden has made a personal plea for letting the Senate vote on his cabinet nominees at the same time that a trial proceeds.

McConnell has told associates that he believes that Trump engaged in impeachable offenses last week when he egged on protesters before they converged on the Capitol, two people familiar with the matter said. But the majority leader said he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote.

McConnell in his letter Wednesday said, “While the press has been full of speculation, 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.”

If McConnell were to support a conviction for Trump, that could have enormous sway among Republicans in the chamber, which will be led by Democrats later this month once three new Democratic senators are seated and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in and can break a tie in a chamber split 50-50 between the parties.

So far, no Republicans have said they would convict Trump although Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told a home-state newspaper last week she wants Trump out of office after his role in last week’s insurgency. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has said he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses but hasn’t said he would vote to convict either.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote for conviction on one count during Trump’s impeachment trial in January 2020.

In the House, 10 Republicans broke ranks and voted to impeach Trump, including Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 GOP leader in the House.

Senate Timetable

McConnell previously sent a memo to Senate Republicans that outlined a potential timetable for a trial. Released Friday, it said a trial couldn’t start until shortly after the inauguration under Senate rules, in part because the Senate is in recess until Jan. 19.

He also said Senate impeachment trial rules would require all 100 senators to agree in order for the chamber to consider any other business during the duration of the trial. That would delay votes on Biden’s cabinet nominees or any early legislative initiatives. Trump’s previous trial lasted almost three weeks.

Legal scholars are divided on the question of whether a president can be convicted after leaving office.

Biden on Tuesday said he is in conversations with Senate leaders and the Senate parliamentarian about whether the Senate could conduct a trial for part of each day and then consider confirmations or legislation.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said legislation approved in 2004 would allow for the Senate to reconvene before Jan. 19 if the minority and majority leader agree there is an emergency requiring senators to return. McConnell rejected that possibility.

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