McConnell’s office made that clear to Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s aides on Wednesday, according to Republican officials. The majority leader also sent a note to Republican senators telling them the chamber won’t return until January 19, according to a person who has seen it, meaning an impeachment trial won’t begin until the early days of Joe Biden’s presidency.
In a statement released after the House voted to impeach, McConnell said, “Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week.”
The House impeachment vote on Wednesday over Trump’s incitement of the riot at the Capitol last week stands as a swift and bipartisan condemnation that makes Trump the first president in United States history to be impeached twice.
In the note to his Republican colleagues Wednesday afternoon on impeachment, he wrote 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.”
But McConnell is furious, sources say, over Trump’s incitement of the violent riots that turned deadly at the US Capitol last week, and he also blames Trump for the party’s failure to hold the two Georgia Senate seats that went to runoffs earlier this month, losses that will send him and Republicans into the minority in the Senate for the next two years.
In a memo a few days ago to Republican senators, McConnell had suggested the trial wouldn’t start until Biden becomes president, saying all 100 senators would need to consent to change the Senate’s schedule. He indicated that the earliest the Senate could take up any House-passed articles of impeachment against Trump would most likely be right after his term ends.
“The Senate trial would therefore begin after President Trump’s term has expired,” the memo states.
But since then, Schumer has called on McConnell to invoke emergency authority created in 2004 to reconvene the Senate if the two leaders agree to bring the chamber back.
Democrats are calling on McConnell to immediately act.
Schumer kept up the pressure with a statement on Wednesday following the impeachment vote, saying, “A Senate trial can begin immediately, with agreement from the current Senate Majority Leader to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session, or it will begin after January 19th. But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”
The President’s second impeachment comes after he repeatedly made false claims that the election had been stolen from him and riled supporters who ransacked the Capitol.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.