McConnell: Vote of Conscience for Trump01/16 10:13
President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe
Biden's inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is telling
senators their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president over the
Capitol riot will be a "vote of conscience."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to
start after Joe Biden's inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch
McConnell, is telling senators their decision on whether to convict the
outgoing president over the Capitol riot will be a "vote of conscience."
The timing for the trial, the first of a president no longer in office, has
not yet been set. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear Friday that
Democrats intend to move swiftly on President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion
COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send
Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office Wednesday.
Pelosi called the recovery package a "matter of complete urgency."
The uncertainty of the scheduling, despite the House's swift impeachment of
Trump just a week after the deadly Jan. 6 siege, reflects the fact that
Democrats do not want the Senate trial proceedings to dominate the opening days
of the Biden administration.
With security on alert over the threat of more potential violence heading
into the inauguration, the Senate is also moving quickly to prepare for
confirming Biden's nominee for National Intelligence Director, Avril Haines. A
committee hearing is set for the day before the inauguration, signaling a
confirmation vote to install her in the position could come swiftly once the
new president is in office.
Many Democrats have pushed for an immediate impeachment trial to hold Trump
accountable and prevent him from holding future office, and the proceedings
could still begin by Inauguration Day. But others have urged a slower pace as
the Senate considers Biden's Cabinet nominees and the newly Democratic-led
Congress considers priorities like the coronavirus plan.
Biden's incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said Friday the
Senate can do both.
"The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the
business of the people," she said.
Psaki noted that during Trump's first impeachment trial last year, the
Senate continued to hold hearings each day. "There is some precedent," she said.
Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be
prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to the
defeated president's tenure. He was first impeached by the House in 2019 over
his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit.
When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will
be making the case that Trump's incendiary rhetoric hours before the bloody
attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but rather part of an escalating
campaign to overturn the November election. It culminated, they will argue, in
the Republican president's rally cry to "fight like hell" as Congress was
tallying the Electoral College votes to confirm he'd lost to Biden.
For Republican senators, the trial will be a perhaps final test of their
loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states
back home, and their own experiences sheltering at the Capitol as a pro-Trump
mob ransacked the building and attempted to overturn Biden's election. It will
force a further re-evaluation of their relationship with the defeated
president, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate.
"These men weren't drunks who got rowdy --- they were terrorists attacking
this country's constitutionally-mandated transfer of power," said Sen. Ben
Sasse, R-Neb., in a statement Friday.
"They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody
constitutional crisis. They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the
McConnell, who has spent the past days talking to senators and donors, is
telling them the decision on whether or not to convict Trump is theirs alone
--- meaning the leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way
or the other.
Last week's assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and flashed
unsettling imagery around the globe, the most serious breach of the Capitol
since the War of 1812, and the worst by home-grown intruders.
Pelosi told reporters on Friday that the nine House impeachment managers,
who act as the prosecutors for the House, are working on taking the case to
"The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by
shining a light on the truth," said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., who will serve
as an impeachment manager.
Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House on the single charge, incitement
of insurrection, in lightning-quick proceedings just a week after after the
siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach, the
most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment.
McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is
done with Trump, but he has not signaled how he would vote. McConnell continues
to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial next week
could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take
control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from
No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a
two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. But conviction of
Trump is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and
wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the
Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday, "Such unlawful actions cannot
go without consequence." She said in a statement that the House responded
"appropriately" with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments.
At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about
Trump's actions, but others have signaled their preference to move on. Sen. Tom
Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement saying he opposes impeachment against a
president who has left office. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is
building support for launching a commission to investigate the siege as an
alternative to conviction.
The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step
in finalizing Biden's victory as lawmakers fled for shelter and police, guns
drawn, barricaded the doors to the House chamber.
A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and
police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities
said were medical emergencies.