In light of the impending second impeachment of President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a memo to GOP Senators on Friday setting out the timetable for a possible impeachment trial.
Any impeachment would begin in the House of Representatives, but should the House vote for impeachment, as it would likely by its Democratic majority, the lawsuit would be referred to the Senate for trial.
According to the memo received by the Washington Post, impeachment proceedings against the Senate would likely begin no earlier than the following week, January 19 (Tuesday) – meaning that proceedings will coincide with the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden could be January 20th and only close after Trump is no longer president.
NEWS -> McConnell sends a memo to the GOP Senators explaining how impeachment would work if the house went through. In essence, McConnell explains how an impeachment trial would take the first few days of Biden’s presidency. Memo received exclusively from WaPo https://t.co/q2f2Quum1Z pic.twitter.com/SAkVVsqPvb
– Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 9, 2021
The reason for this delay, according to the memo, is that the Chamber is currently on a hiatus – and that hiatus cannot be closed early without the unanimous approval of the Senate.
Such an early return is vanishingly unlikely as it would require all 100 Senators – including Trump loyalists like Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who both stuck to their plan to object to the Biden voters on Wednesday, even after a pro -Trump mob who stormed the US Capitol – to agree to resume regular session early.
The memo also notes that it is “unclear” whether Chief Justice John Roberts – who is constitutionally required to lead the impeachment process of a Senate president – should continue to do so after his absence.
While some of the exact rules are unclear, nothing prevents the process from moving forward once Trump leaves office, and as Vox’s Ian Millhiser has explained, the conviction could still keep him from taking office again.
Once the impeachment process in the House of Representatives is complete, the McConnell memo said the House impeachment managers would have the option to propose impeachment proceedings on the day of the Senate’s scheduled return – January 19 – or the day after. The day after the articles are submitted to the Senate at 1:00 p.m., Senators must officially begin their process (per the Chamber’s impeachment rules), followed by an eventual vote to either convict or acquit after hearing all arguments.
As of Saturday, the McConnell memo appears to be relevant shortly. House Democrats are due to launch impeachment proceedings as early as Monday, and the process is expected to move swiftly from there.
The only article shared in draft form by some Democratic lawmakers accused Trump of “inciting insurrection” for his role in whipping the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and temporarily delayed certification of votes for at least five people are dead.
The impeachment proceedings, authored by Reps Ted Lieu, David Cicilline and Jamie Raskin, read: “President Trump has seriously endangered the security of the United States and its government institutions. It threatened the integrity of the democratic system, disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and endangered a coordinated branch of government. “
And as Aaron Rupar von Vox has pointed out at length, there is a clear line between Trump’s speech to supporters on Wednesday and the subsequent attack on the Capitol.
“You will never retake our country with weakness,” said Trump on Wednesday just before the uprising. “You have to show strength. You have to be strong.”
“You will never retake our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong.” – This is what Trump told his supporters just before a crowd of them stormed the Capitol, resulting in at least five deaths. Pic.twitter.com/oRFUcTfsNn
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2021
If the impeachment article were introduced on Monday, as is likely, it would get a quick vote on the floor and bypass parts of the normal procedure.
As CBS News’s Rebecca Kaplan, Kathryn Watson and Grace Segers explained on Friday:
The Judiciary Committee has not yet been formed for the 117th Congress, so an impeachment decision would be heard directly in a so-called “privileged resolution”.
And from there, it would only take a simple majority of the votes – again in a chamber where the Democrats have a majority – to indict Trump a second time and start the Senate process described by McConnell.
Democrats worry about a slow process
However, some Democrats have argued that McConnell’s schedule is a deliberate slowdown in the impeachment process.
In a Friday interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Rep. Adam Schiff – the House’s chief impeachment manager during Trump’s previous impeachment – dismissed the memo as “written for public consumption.”
“Mitch McConnell is the master of the Senate rules, for good or for bad – and it was for sick,” Schiff said on Friday. “Here he’s essentially saying he’s going to pull that out. If Mitch McConnell wants to move the expedition, he knows how to do it. And if he does not, he will be responsible for all the dangerous acts that this President does. “
MP Schiff on potential McConnell problems with the impeachment of Trump: “If Mitch McConnell wants to move the expedition, he knows how to do it. And if he doesn’t, he will be responsible for any dangerous actions that president may commit . “pic.twitter.com/mgegUa4FZz
– Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 9, 2021
But while McConnell’s tenure as Majority Leader is nearing its end, after the Democrats won two Senate seats in Georgia this week – and raised the Chamber’s balance to 50:50 once Sens.-Elect-Elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are sworn in – , is will hold the title until at least January 20, when Vice President-elect Kamala Harris receives the casting vote, replacing Vice President Mike Pence.
And some Democrats believe the process could stall the earliest days of the incoming Biden administration. Impeachment proceedings automatically take precedence over other matters in the Senate until it is completed and could therefore postpone confirmation of Biden’s cabinet by the Senate after he takes office.
West Virginia Senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, expressed concern about the possibility on Friday.
“We have to put our government together quickly – that’s the most important thing we should do,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “We don’t need any more political theater.”
For his part, Biden has refused to ponder whether he believes Trump should be charged again.
“This is a decision that Congress has to make,” he said on Friday.
It is unclear whether Trump would be condemned by the Senate
Regardless of the timing of a potential Senate trial, it is unclear whether there will be enough votes to actually condemn Trump. A two-thirds vote – 67 members – is required to condemn, and few Republican senators have expressed their openness to even consider it.
“When you get together and have a trial,” said Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska on Friday, “I will definitely consider what articles you can move because, as I told you, I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office. “
One senator who has thought more explicitly is Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski – she has asked Trump to resign immediately.
“I want him to step down,” she told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday. “I want him out. He’s done enough damage. “
Murkowski also questioned her future with the Republican Party Friday. “If the Republican Party became nothing but Trump’s party,” she said, “I sincerely wonder if this is the party for me.”
In February, when the Senate voted on the conviction following Trump’s first impeachment trial, only one Republican voted for the conviction: Utah Senator Mitt Romney. Now, however, Romney has not yet signaled support for impeachment, saying, “I think we just have to hold our breath” until Biden becomes president.
Trump was eventually acquitted during his first Senate trial.
The Senate will likely vote as jurors again soon, however. Slow trial or no, Dave Wasserman, editor of the Cook Political Report, told Vox Friday, “Every Democrat is pretty much on board by now.”
“We cannot heal our country if we just ignore what happened on Wednesday. This was a riot and coup attempt that killed several people,” said Rep. Ted Lieu.
“That’s why we have to impeach,” he says @woilfblitzer. pic.twitter.com/lHGw0sLVKo
– The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) January 8, 2021
“We cannot heal our country if we just ignore what happened on Wednesday,” said Californian MP Ted Lieu on Friday. “This was an uprising and a coup attempt in which several people died.”
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