Pelosi’s delay could set up Trump to argue violation of right to speedy trial

Ten days have elapsed since the Democrats in the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has yet to send the articles on to the Senate for a trial. According to one former New York City prosecutor, the longer Pelosi delays, the more options Trump will have to defend himself.

Paul Callan, now a legal analyst for CNN, has predicted that if Pelosi does not send the article of impeachment to the Senate soon, President Trump and his team will begin to argue that his Sixth Amendment rights have been violated. 

Sixth amendment issue

The Sixth Amendment states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.”

Now, the impeachment process is not a criminal trial. But according to Callan, this isn’t going to stop the president and his team from arguing that his right to a speedy trial has been violated.

“The one thing we haven’t heard yet is about the concept of a speedy trial,” said Callan. “And I’m betting that if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t get those articles of impeachment over to the Senate chamber very, very soon the president is going to be saying that he’s been denied a speedy trial, that you’re entitled to under the U.S. Constitution, and that a motion to dismiss the impeachment lies now.”

“This has never happened before in American history,” Callan continued. “But I’m betting you’re going to hear those words spoken if those articles aren’t delivered very soon.”

Delay isn’t serious yet

According to Ross Garber, one of Callan’s colleagues over at CNN and another attorney who is considered to be an impeachment expert, there hasn’t yet been a “substantial delay” in the impeachment process, especially given the fact that Congress is currently in recess.

“In the past, there have been significant gaps in time between the passage of articles of impeachment and the beginning of a Senate trial,” Garber said. “This is all theater at this point. And I think it will continue to be theater. I expect the Speaker will transmit the articles shortly after Congress returns in early January.”

Garber went on to agree that Pelosi, in delaying, has made it easier for Trump to make a public defense — after all, if the matter was so open and shut, then surely Trump would be out of office by now. But Garber warned viewers about looking at what Pelosi is doing too superficially.

“By not immediately transmitting the articles, the Speaker has left herself vulnerable to a PR campaign by the President,” Garber said. “But it would be a mistake to take this political show at face value. Delaying delivery of the articles much past early January would hurt the Democrats, who will want to be talking about bread-and-butter election issues — not impeachment — as their primaries and caucuses begin in February. Sen. [Mitch] McConnell (R-KY) no doubt recognizes this, and has said he doesn’t particularly care when the House transmits the articles.”

Looking forward

Now we have to wait until the House is back in session to see what Pelosi is going to do. Remember that currently she says she is holding out to ensure a “fair” Senate trial, falsely seeming to believe that she has some kind of leverage in this situation.

In the meantime, Trump will likely continue to defend himself on social media. We will have to see whether that Sixth Amendment argument is in fact employed as predicted.

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