Politics

Trump impeachment trial could start next Tuesday, McConnell says

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's impeachment trial could begin as soon as next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
  • McConnell, R-Ky., announced the tentative schedule just a few hours after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed she will send the two articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Wednesday.
  • "We hope to be able to achieve that by consent, which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday," McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after a luncheon on Capitol Hill January 13, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump's impeachment trial could begin as soon as next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

McConnell, R-Ky., announced the tentative schedule just a few hours after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed she will send the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Wednesday.

If that happens, McConnell said at a press event on Capitol Hill, then his chamber will be able to move the process forward this week by having Chief Justice John Roberts swear in, along with "some other kind of housekeeping measures."

"We hope to be able to achieve that by consent, which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday," McConnell said.

McConnell also reasserted that there was no desire in the Senate to vote to drop the impeachment charges against the president without hearing the arguments against him.

Pelosi decided to hand the two articles against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — over to the Senate after withholding them for weeks in a gambit to get assurances about how his Republican-led chamber will conduct the trial.

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House to vote on sending articles of impeachment against Pres. Trump to Senate

She and other top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have loudly voiced concerns about whether Trump's Senate trial will be legitimate. McConnell has been heavily criticized for saying last month that he is "not impartial" and is coordinating directly with Trump's counsel ahead of the trial.

Schumer appealed to McConnell directly to include four witnesses in the trial, including former national security advisor John Bolton and current acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. But McConnell rejected Schumer's demand, and made no concessions to Democrats despite Pelosi's efforts to influence the rules of the trial.

The White House had pressured those and other witnesses not to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, claiming the proceedings were "baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process."

Bolton said last week that he is willing to testify in the impeachment trial if the Senate subpoenas him to appear. But it's unclear if the Senate, in which Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, has any appetite to do so.

McConnell said last month that he wants the trial to closely resemble former President Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998. The Senate during Clinton's impeachment debated during the trial itself whether to allow witnesses to appear.

Senate Republicans slammed the Democrat-led House impeachment inquiry at the press conference Tuesday.

The House process "was rushed, it was partisan and it was sloppy," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said. "Justice is going to be done, and it's going to occur in the Senate."

Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry in late 2019 to investigate Trump's efforts to have Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announce probes involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine and not Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Trump asked Zelenskiy to announce the probes while hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally allocated military aid to Ukraine were being withheld without clear explanation.

Some Republicans have considered calling Hunter Biden, as well as the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump's July 25 call with Zelenskiy helped spark the impeachment inquiry, as witnesses in the Senate trial. Unlike Schumer's requested witnesses, Hunter Biden and the whistleblower would not be able to offer firsthand testimony related to the articles of impeachment against Trump.

"I think we'll be able to dip into the witness issue at the appropriate time," McConnell said Tuesday when asked about the possibility of Republicans calling Hunter Biden to testify.

"I think it's certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses that they want to hear from ... I can't imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues want to call would be called," he said.

On Wednesday, Pelosi is expected to hold a vote on a resolution that will transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, as well as appropriate funds for the trial. The vote will also name the so-called impeachment managers, who are typically House members who serve as the prosecutors in the Senate trial.

Trump's defense team is already taking shape.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone is expected to lead the team in the Senate trial, with support from Trump's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and at least two of Cipollone's deputies, NBC News reported, citing sources and public comments from administration officials.

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House expected to vote Wednesday on articles of impeachment