McConnell seeks to push Trump impeachment trial to February

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On the first full day of the new Democratic majority in the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the top Republican, walks to the chamber for the start of business as the minority leader, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. There is now a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats, but with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker, the majority shifts by the slimmest of margins. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to push back the start of Donald Trump's impeachment trial to February to give the former president time to prepare and review his case.

House Democrats who voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot have signaled they want to move quickly to trial as President Joe Biden begins his term, saying a full reckoning is necessary before the country — and the Congress — can move on.

But McConnell in a statement Thursday evening suggested a more expansive timeline that would see the House transmit the article of impeachment next week, on Jan. 28, launching the trial's first phase. After that, the Senate would give the president's defense team and House prosecutors two weeks to file briefs. Arguments in the trial would likely begin in mid-February.

“Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake,” especially given the unprecedented speed of the House process, McConnell said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is reviewing the plan and will discuss it with McConnell, a spokesperson said. The two leaders are also negotiating how the new 50-50 Senate will work and how they will balance other priorities.

A trial delay could appeal to some Democrats, as it would give the Senate more time to confirm Biden's Cabinet nominees and debate a new round of coronavirus relief. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a key ally of the president's, told CNN that Democrats would consider a delay “if we are making progress on confirming the very talented, seasoned and diverse team that President Joe Biden has nominated.”

The ultimate power over timing rests with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can trigger the start of the trial at any point by sending to the Senate the charge of incitement of an insurrection. The California Democrat has not yet said when she will do that.

“It will be soon. I don’t think it will be long, but we must do it,” Pelosi said Thursday. She said Trump doesn’t deserve a “get-out-of-jail card” just because he has left office and Biden and others are calling for national unity.