Trump’s Impeachment Trial Can’t Finish Before He Leaves Office, Mitch McConnell Says

Virginia Chamlee
·3 min read

TOM BRENNER/POOL/AFP via Getty Sen. Mitch McConnell

After being impeached by the House of Representatives this week, President Donald Trump will now stand trial in the Senate — though it's not happening as quickly as some Democrats had hoped, according to a timeline laid out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

NBC News reports that McConnell's office said it does not intend to bring the Senate back before Tuesday, which means the impeachment trial will begin in earnest during the early days of President-Elect Joe Biden's term in office, which begins with next Wednesday's inauguration.

McConnell, 78, confirmed as much in a statement after Trump was impeached, saying that "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. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact."

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

A bipartisan majority in the House voted this week to impeach Trump, 74, on one charge of "incitement of insurrection" for his role in encouraging his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol last week.

At a rally near the White House on Jan. 6, Trump called on attendees to "fight like hell" and to "peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard" at the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was meeting to ratify Biden's election victory.

Throngs of his supporters then marched on the Capitol, breaching the police barrier, clashing with officers and ransacking the offices of lawmakers who were forced to evacuate or barricade themselves.

Five people died.

As the situation was still unfolding, Trump released a video sympathizing with the rioters, whom he said he "loved" and were "very special" even as he told them to go home.

"I know your pain. I know you're hurt," Trump said the video, before going on to falsely claim that the election was "stolen" from him.

Trump also published a tweet criticizing Mike Pence around the time the vice president was being forced the evacuate.

"These are the things and events that happen .... Remember this day forever!" Trump tweeted after the riot.

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Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty President Donald Trump

While reports suggested McConnell was open to Trump's impeachment, the Kentucky lawmaker pushed back against that, according to ABC News.

In a letter to other senators Wednesday, McConnell said that "while the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate."

That tone, nonetheless, was markedly different from how McConnell responded to Trump's previous impeachment.

Trump was charged by the House in December 2019 with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his Ukraine scandal.

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No Republican members of the House voted in favor of impeachment in 2019 and only one Republican senator — Mitt Romney, a Trump critic — voted to convict the president.

Not so with the 2021 impeachment, with 10 Republican representatives joining the Democratic majority in the House, including leading GOP member Liz Cheney.

Democrats need at least 17 Republican senators to break with their party in order to convict Trump at his upcoming trial, which Biden has said he hopes to have run parallel to the business of his incoming administration.

The Senate could also bar Trump from ever holding elected federal office again.