McConnell, Schumer mum on contours of impeachment trial as DC preps for inauguration under lockdown

Posted 45 days ago


Details of the upcoming impeachment trial for President Trump are still up in the air as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer -- who will soon swap jobs -- have remained silent about the details of how the trial will work, how long it will last and more.

When the trial will start is up in the air as well. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after overseeing the impeachment of Trump just one week after he riled up a group of supporters who later ransacked the Capitol while Congress was certifying the election results, has yet to send the article of impeachment to the Senate.

Pelosi did not answer questions during a Friday press conference on when she would send over the article. Her office also did not immediately respond to a message from Fox News on Monday morning asking when she would send the article.

The Senate, once it gets the article, will be legally required to start a trial forthwith. This would take up much of the body's calendar even as President-elect Joe Biden will need it to confirm some of his most important nominees. This could be a reason why Pelosi has not sent over the article -- to give Schumer time to confirm some Biden nominees or pass some legislation before a trial starts.


"Well, we have the trial of the president. That's mandated by law," Schumer, D-N. Y., said in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday. "Second, there's a very, very real need for President Biden to have in place key people in his Cabinet, the people in charge of national security, the people in charge of domestic security, the people in charge of making sure everyone gets vaccinated as quickly as possible."

He added: "And third, this country is in the greatest economic crisis since the Depression, the greatest health care crisis since the Spanish pandemic flu 100 years ago, and we must pass more relief for the American people. We must do all three and we have to do them all quickly. One cannot stand in the way of the other."

Still, the Senate can't do anything on impeachment until it actually gets the impeachment article, meaning the ball is still in Pelosi's court.

The contours of the impeachment trial, meanwhile, are still unclear. Schumer and McConnell, R-Ky., haven't announced any kind of agreement on the ground rules. This includes whether there will be witnesses, how long the trial will last or even who will preside over the trial -- it's not constitutionally clear if it's required that Chief Justice John Roberts preside over a trial for a former president rather than a sitting president, as he did last year.

Representatives for McConnell and Schumer didn't immediately respond to questions on how the trial will work.

On timing specifically, McConnell warned against a very short trial while also making clear that even if the Senate had immediately started a trial it wouldn't be able to conclude before Trump leaves office.

"The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days, respectively," McConnell said.

"Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office," he said last week. "This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact. The president-elect himself stated last week that his inauguration on January 20 is the ‘quickest’ path for any change in the occupant of the presidency."

Then, once the trial starts, the question will become which GOP senators will vote to convict Trump. Some who have long been critical of the president -- including Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska -- are good bets to join Democrats.

But whether 17 Republicans, the number that would be needed to join 50 Democrats to reach the required two-thirds threshold, vote to convict the president will rely largely on what McConnell ... (Read more)