WASHINGTON (AP) — If the House impeaches President Donald Trump, a Senate trial on whether to convict him of inciting insurrection seems all but certain to have to wait until President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.
That’s the word from a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The spokesman says aides to the Kentucky Republican have told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's staff that McConnell won’t agree to invoke powers calling senators into emergency session.
That means the Senate almost certainly won’t meet again until Jan. 19. That's the day before Biden’s inauguration.
The House is set to vote later Wednesday on impeaching Trump, accusing him of rallying a violent mob of supporters to attack the Capitol last week.
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House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy says Trump “bears responsibility” for last week’s storming of the Capitol by his supporters.
McCarthy, a close Trump ally, says the president “should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
But McCarthy also says he believes it would be a mistake to impeach Trump in such a short time frame. Trump leaves office on Jan. 20 when Joe Biden is inaugurated.
McCarthy says “a vote to impeach would further divide this nation, a vote to impeach will further fan the flames, the partisan division.”
The California lawmaker is calling instead for a fact-finding commission and censure resolution.
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McConnell is moving abruptly away from Trump, telling people that he thinks Trump perpetrated impeachable offenses. He also sees House Democrats' drive to impeach Trump as an opportune moment to distance the GOP from the tumultuous, divisive outgoing president.
The views of McConnell, who will be Washington's most powerful Republican once Biden is inaugurated next week, were described by a GOP strategist on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. The New York Times first reported McConnell's view on Tuesday.
McConnell's thinking emerged as the Democratic-led House moved toward certain approval of an impeachment article accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, an unprecedented second impeachment of his clamorous presidency. Trump exhorted a throng of his followers to march on the Capitol last Wednesday, where they disrupted Congress' formal certification of Biden's win in a riot that resulted in five deaths.
The Republican strategist said McConnell hasn't said if he'd vote to convict Trump when the Senate holds an impeachment trial. Nonetheless, McConnell's thinking — and the certainty that modest but significant numbers of House Republicans were ready to vote to impeach Trump — underscored how the GOP's long reflexive support and condoning of his actions was eroding.
Last weekend, McConnell spoke to major Republican donors to assess their thinking about Trump and was told that they believed Trump had clearly crossed a line, the strategist said. McConnell told them he was finished with Trump, according to the consultant.
McConnell is looking out for his party’s long-term future, but the short-term political pain for Republican senators is clear, said a GOP aide granted anonymity to discuss the situation. The aide called a Senate vote on removing Trump a big risk for Republican senators, with many of them almost certain to face challenges in GOP primaries.
It is unclear how many Republicans would vote to convict Trump in a Senate trial, but it appears plausible that several would do so. So far, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has said she wants Trump to resign and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has said he would “definitely consider” House impeachment articles.