McConnell proposing to Schumer that Trump impeachment trial start in February

CBS NEWS

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to delay the start of the impeachment trial of former President Trump until February, multiple sources familiar with the plan tell CBS News. McConnell confirmed his proposal in a statement late Thursday. 

This would give impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s defense at least a week to prepare. McConnell floated the proposal to GOP senators on a caucus conference call Thursday. McConnell, now in the minority, does not have final say on when a trial would be. Schumer would have to agree to the proposal. 

McConnell told reporters late Thursday that he has not yet heard back from Schumer on his proposal, adding, “we’re going to continue to talk about it.” 

“Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake,” McConnell said in his statement. “Given the unprecedented speed of the House’s process, our proposed timeline for the initial phases includes a modest and reasonable amount of additional time for both sides to assemble their arguments before the Senate would begin to hear them.”

Under McConnell’s proposed timeline, the House impeachment managers would read the article to the Senate and senators would be sworn into the court of impeachment on January 28, a Thursday. From that day, Mr. Trump would have a week to answer the article and the House’s pre-trial brief would be due, meaning February 4. Mr. Trump would then have a week from when he submits his answer to also submit his pre-trial brief, meaning February 11. The House would have two days after that (February 13) to submit their rebuttal pre-trial brief. 

The House has yet to send the single article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection to the Senate. 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham praised McConnell’s proposal to delay the trial into February and said he met with McConnell on Thursday. 

“We looked at historically pre-trial periods. The difference is there was really no input in the House, it was a snap impeachment. But when you look at the time periods involved, it’s very similar to what we’ve done in the past,” Graham told reporters. 

Graham confirmed that attorney Butch Bowers is joining the Trump legal team as “the anchor tenant.” Graham praised Butcher as a “solid guy.” The South Carolina senator said he had no insight into whether Mr. Trump would attend the trial, but recommended that he shouldn’t. 

“The president looks forward to getting this behind him,” Graham said. “Believes it’s unconstitutional and damages his presidency, but you know, he’s gonna’ have his day in court and that’s the way the system works.”

The House impeached Mr. Trump last week, on January 13, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats. 

Senators are currently scheduled to be working from their states during the week of February 15 for Presidents’ Day, potentially complicating the timeline. 

At the moment, the Senate is also working to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees. Democratic Senator Chris Coons told CNN Thursday Democrats could be open to a slight delay in the trial if there’s progress in confirming nominees. 

“I think Democrats will be open to considering a delay that allows former President Trump time to assemble his legal team and his defense for the impeachment trial if we are making progress on confirming the very talented, seasoned, and diverse team President Joe Biden has nominated to serve in his Cabinet,” Coons said. 

McConnell has not said publicly whether he supports or opposes impeachment, although he has said that the mob that attacked the Capitol was “provoked by the president.” 

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