GOP proposes delaying Trump impeachment trial until February

GOP proposes delaying Trump impeachment trial until February

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing delaying former Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial until February so the former president’s new legal team will have time to prepare his defense.

The House rushed a vote last week to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection” after a violent mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and disrupted the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she expects to transmit the article to the Senate “soon” to immediately launch a Senate trial.

But McConnell told his GOP colleagues on a call Thursday that a two-week delay would allow Trump to ready his legal defense and ensure due process.

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“Given the unprecedented speed of the House’s process, our proposed timeline for the initial phases includes a modest and reasonable amount of additional time for both sides to assemble their arguments before the Senate would begin to hear them,” McConnell said in a statement. 

South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers will represent Trump in his impeachment trial and serve as the team “anchor,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said Thursday. Graham called Bowers a “solid guy” and said he’s known Bowers for a long time going back to South Carolina Air National Guard where Bowers is a Judge Advocate.  

Graham called it a “snap impeachment” since the House brought the impeachment resolution directly to the floor and without any committee hearings. Since Trump is just now readying his legal team, it’s “fair” to give him time.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., stands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., stands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

“The President was shut out in the House, so his team needs some time to prepare,” Graham told Fox News. “I think the [House impeachment] managers would also, so I’m very supportive of the proposal made by Senator McConnell. I think it’s fair to everybody.” 

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McConnell doesn’t have the final say on the timeline. It’s up to Pelosi to determine when she wants to send over the article of impeachment. And new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would also need to be supportive of the impeachment timeline. Any effort to proceed needs 51 senators to agree.

A benefit to delaying the trial a bit would give the Senate time to confirm Biden’s cabinet nominations. As of Thursday evening, just one nominee, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, has been approved.

Under the McConnell proposal, the Senate would swear in the impeachment court on Jan. 28 and issue a summons to Trump. Trump would have one week from that day on Feb. 4, to answer the article of impeachment. The House’s pre-trial brief would also be due then.

Trump would have until Feb. 11 to respond to the House impeachment managers’ brief. The House would then rebut the pre-trial brief by Feb. 13, under the GOP proposal.

McConnell says the longer pre-trial timeline is needed since the House rushed through impeachment.

“At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency,” McConnell said.

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Some Republicans believe holding an impeachment trial for a president who is already out of office is unconstitutional. A source familiar with the GOP call Thursday said there was discussion of a motion to dismiss the trial altogether on the grounds of constitutionality, though that would presumably fail with Democrats in control.

Schumer and McConnell have been trying to hash out a power-sharing agreement and a path forward on impeachment and Biden cabinet nominations. 

A spokesman for Schumer said they are reviewing McConnell’s proposal: “We received Leader McConnell’s proposal that only deals with pre-trial motions late this afternoon. We will review it and discuss it with him.”

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report. 

 

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