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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a memo to his colleagues Friday spelling out how a second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump might be conducted in the upper chamber if House Democrats follow through with their vow to bring articles against the president next week.
One major detail sticks out in the plan: the soonest the Senate would even consider the matter would be the day before the president leaves office.
What are the details?
The Washington Post obtained the memo, and reported that the Senate “will not reconvene for substantive business until Jan. 19, which means the earliest possible date that impeachment trial proceedings can begin in the Senate is the day before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.”
The outlet noted:
Although the Senate will hold two pro forma sessions next week, on Jan. 12 and Jan. 15, it is barred from conducting any kind of business during those days — including “beginning to act on received articles of impeachment from the House” — without agreement from all 100 senators. With a cadre of Trump-allied senators in the Republican conference, that unanimous consent is highly unlikely.
The Washington Examiner pointed out that this revelation means that McConnell is effectively handing the prospective new impeachment battle in the Senate to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), who will take over as Senate Majority Leader after the inauguration due to Republicans losing control of the Senate earlier this week.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hailed McConnell’s move on Friday, tweeting, “Completely agree with @senatemajldr’s analysis that the Senate cannot process the impeachment being contemplated by the House before January 20. I firmly believe impeachment would further destroy our ability to heal and start over.”
Democrats expressed outrage over McConnell’s timeline, with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)—who spearheaded the first impeachment of Trump—telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, “If Mitch McConnell wants to move with expedition, he knows how to do it. And if he doesn’t, then he will bear the responsibility for whatever dangerous acts this president commits.”
If the second impeachment trial does occur, “there is also a question of who exactly would preside over a trial of a former president,” The Post stated.
The newspaper reported that according to McConnell’s memo, “Senate impeachment rules require Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. preside over a trial of a sitting president, but whether he would have to once Trump is no longer president is ‘unclear.'”