There are scant details surrounding the upcoming second impeachment trial of President Trump as the inauguration looms and D.C. goes into lockdown. Most of those details are still up in the air as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have remained mum on the subject. They have not said just how the trial will work or how long it will last.
No one is even sure at this point when the trial will start. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has not sent the article of impeachment to the Senate yet. Constitutional scholars such as Jonathan Turley say that it would be unconstitutional to try and impeach a president once he leaves office and is a citizen again. Rumors are swirling that the article of impeachment may be held until Biden’s first 100 days are up and then it would be invoked. The goal is to ensure that President Trump cannot run in 2024.
Pelosi refused to answer any questions on the matter at her Friday press conference.
Once the article of impeachment is received in the Senate, they will legally be required to start a trial immediately. This is one of the reasons that the article may be held for some time as the Democrats do not want the impeachment to dominate Biden’s calendar so early in his presidency. Holding the article would give Schumer time to confirm some Biden nominees or pass some legislation before a trial starts.
“Well, we have the trial of the president. That’s mandated by law,” Schumer (D-NY) stated on Sunday. “Second, there’s a very, very real need for President Biden to have in place key people in his Cabinet, the people in charge of national security, the people in charge of domestic security, the people in charge of making sure everyone gets vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
Schumer also pointed out: “And third, this country is in the greatest economic crisis since the Depression, the greatest health care crisis since the Spanish pandemic flu 100 years ago, and we must pass more relief for the American people. We must do all three and we have to do them all quickly. One cannot stand in the way of the other.”
McConnell and Schumer have not announced any kind of agreement on the ground rules for the impeachment. That would include whether there will be witnesses, how long the trial will last, or even who will preside over the trial. It’s not constitutionally clear if it’s required that Chief Justice John Roberts preside over a trial for a former president rather than a sitting president, as he did last year.
One thing McConnell was clear on was that even if the Senate had immediately started a trial it wouldn’t be able to conclude before Trump leaves office.
“The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days, respectively,” McConnell said.
“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,” he said last week. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact. The president-elect himself stated last week that his inauguration on January 20 is the ‘quickest’ path for any change in the occupant of the presidency.”
17 Republicans are needed to join 50 Democrats in order to reach the required two-thirds threshold to vote to convict the president. McConnell has left that door open.
“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,” McConnell said in a note to Republican colleagues on Wednesday.
Schumer has made clear there will be a trial.
“What Donald Trump did is the most despicable action any president has ever taken. And he should be convicted at this trial,” Schumer said on “60 Minutes” Sunday. “In addition, if we convict him, we can then, by only 51 votes, remove him from ever running for office again. I know we wanna heal. But when something this awful happens, to just push it off will not heal.”
The impeachment drama is coinciding with Joe Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Hill and D.C., in general, have been converted into a massive military staging ground ahead of the Biden inauguration which is set for Wednesday.
The Department of Defense has sent 25,000 National Guard troops to the Capitol as the U.S. Secret Service leads preparations to keep the event safe amid rumors of violence.
The FBI is also vetting federal troops in D.C. amid worries from defense officials that some of the National Guard troops may be sympathetic to those bent on violence.
“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press on Sunday. He said that their priority is ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. “We want to send the message to everyone in the United States and for the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully,” McCarthy said.
It’s also unclear how long the massive new security measures will remain at the Capitol. The tight measures might continue well into Trump’s impeachment trial and could be in place in D.C. indefinitely.
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