McConnell says impeachment trial in Senate likely to begin Tuesday

The Democrats voted to send articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday, ending a month-long partisan impasse that put Donald Trump’s trial in limbo. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the trial could start as soon as next Tuesday.

The Republican leader has mounted a vehement defense of Trump, slamming the impeachment as a partisan exercise with no credibility. “We’ll be able to go through some preliminary steps here this week, which could well include the Chief Justice coming over and swearing-in members of the Senate and some other kind of housekeeping measures…which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday,” McConnell said, according to Breitbart.

Senate trial to begin as impasse breaks

In a nearly party-line vote, the House moved to start the next phase of impeachment and officially appoint impeachment managers to prosecute the Democrats’ case. Pelosi sought to strike a solemn, serious tone during debate on the resolution, insisting, according to Fox, that Trump had been “impeached forever,” regardless of the trial’s outcome.

“When someone is impeached, they are always impeached. It cannot be erased,” she said.

The vote brings an end to a stalemate that began when Pelosi, seeking to extract favorable trial terms from McConnell, held up the articles of impeachment. The logjam broke last week after McConnell said he had enough votes to start a trial without any agreement on witnesses.

Democrats named Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who played prominent roles in molding the Democrats’ charges in the House, as well as five other Democrats as their impeachment managers. The trial will get underway once senators are sworn in and other procedural steps are taken.

McConnell ready to fight

McConnell is eager to avoid a protracted trial, but he raised the possibility Tuesday of calling Hunter Biden and other witnesses sought by Republicans if Democrats insist on calling Trump administration witnesses including John Bolton, according to The Hill. The Republican leader has said that the Senate will not dismiss the charges outright, as Trump recently suggested.

But with a majority, Republican senators are expected to easily acquit Trump. Given the unlikelihood of removing Trump from office, Democrats have turned to framing his impeachment as a permanent mark on his presidency while accusing Republicans of a “cover-up” to conceal incriminating evidence. Republicans, in turn, have fired back that Pelosi’s delay showed a lack of sincerity and that Democrats want a do-over of an investigation they never completed in the first place.

For his part, McConnell has made it clear that he’s ready to fight. In comments Tuesday, he highlighted what he saw as a paradox at the heart of the matter: Democrats have already charged Trump based on an incomplete record of evidence, only to blame Republicans for their failure to completely investigate beforehand.

“If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place,” McConnell said, according to The Hill.

Dems claim “cover-up”

Democrats will surely continue to drive the “cover-up” message, whether to tar Republican lawmakers facing re-election, deny Trump any exoneration, or pressure wobbly moderates who still harbor misgivings about McConnell’s plan. A handful of Republican senators, including Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), have signaled that they want to hear additional testimony, but there would need to be at least four defections for witnesses to be called.

Barring any surprises, it looks like the trial will likely move forward as expected, although with a later start than anticipated.

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