McConnell wants to delay Trump’s Senate impeachment trial to February

Griffin Connolly
·3 min read
Mitch McConnell, left, and Chuck Schumer are in negotiations about how a 50-50 Senate will function. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mitch McConnell, left, and Chuck Schumer are in negotiations about how a 50-50 Senate will function. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a timeline for the impeachment trial of Donald Trump that would delay the start of the actual trial until mid-February, giving the twice-impeached former president’s legal team an extra 14 days to prepare for proceedings.

Mr McConnell has submitted that proposal to the new majority leader, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, as the pair continue to negotiate how the Senate should operate under a 50-50 partisan split with Vice President Kamala Harris deciding tie votes.

“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,” Mr McConnell said in a statement on Thursday.

The Kentucky Republican cited the House’s truncated impeachment process earlier this month as cause to slow down the Senate process to give House managers time to put together their case and Mr Trump’s legal team to assemble its defence.

The House impeachment article — which accuses Mr Trump of “incitement to insurrection” — materialised and received a vote within a week of the president’s supporters storming US Capitol on 6 January to interrupt Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

“Given the unprecedented speed of the House’s process, our proposed timeline for the initial phases includes a modest and reasonable amount of additional time for both sides to assemble their arguments before the Senate would begin to hear them,” Mr McConnell said on Thursday.

Under Mr McConnell’s proposed timeline — first shared with GOP senators on a conference call on Thursday, and later released to Capitol Hill press — the House impeachment managers would transmit the article of impeachment against Mr Trump on 28 January, next Thursday.

Mr Trump would then have one week (4 February) to answer the article. That would also be the House impeachment managers’ deadline to submit their pre-trial brief.

A week later, 11 February, the president’s lawyers would submit its own brief, giving them a total of 14 days to put together his defence documents.

The House managers would then have two more days (13 February) to submit their rebuttal to the president’s brief.

Then the trial would commence.

Mr Schumer has received Mr McConnell’s proposal and will discuss it with him after he his staff have a chance to review and consider it, a spokesman for the Democratic leader said on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to provide reporters with a timeline on when she would have her impeachment managers execute the transmission of the ratified article, a step that would automatically trigger the trial.

Ms Pelosi did, however, indicate she would wait until Mr Schumer and Mr McConnell struck an agreement on the rules for the trial.

“It’s up to them [the Senate] to decide how we go forward. When we go forward. It will be soon. I don't think it will be long, but we must do it,” she said.

Several Senate Republicans, including Mr McConnell, have left open the possibility of voting to convict Mr Trump of inciting the insurrection, which would then allow the chamber to bar him from ever holding federally elected office again.

That would mean no 2024 rematch with Mr Biden.

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