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McConnell remains undecided on convicting Trump in Senate trial

McConnell said last week that the earliest the Senate could take up the articles would be Jan. 19, unless all 100 senators agree to come back early.
Image: Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returns to the House chamber to continue the joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told his GOP colleagues in a note Wednesday afternoon that he remains undecided whether he'll vote to convict President Donald Trump at his coming impeachment trial.

"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.

Simply being open to voting to convict is significant for McConnell, who denounced Trump's first impeachment as a political exercise with "zero chance" of removing him.

On Wednesday, 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump as the House approved a single article of impeachment, charging him with "incitement of insurrection" for his role in encouraging the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. He is the first president to be impeached twice. The Senate process will begin after it receives the article from the House.

McConnell said last week that the earliest the Senate could take up the articles would be Jan. 19, unless all 100 senators agree to come back early.

In a statement following the impeachment vote, McConnell said there is no chance the Senate could have a trial before Trump leaves office Jan. 20.

"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," he said. "The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively."

He added: "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. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact."

House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pressed for a swift trial.

"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," he said in a statement. "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."

On Tuesday afternoon, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, announced that she would vote to impeach Trump.

"There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution," Cheney said in a statement.

Cheney's comments followed a New York Times report that McConnell believes that Trump committed impeachable offenses and that the impeachment effort "will make it easier" to purge Trump from the Republican Party.

Trump monitored the impeachment proceedings largely from the Oval Office, an administration official said Wednesday. There has been outreach between the White House and Republican leadership, but the official did not give specific details.

"As much as we can, we are focusing on the transition, highlighting the success of the last four years and continuing the work of government until the next administration takes over," the official said.

The official said the White House has "minor concerns" about the Senate's convicting Trump given news reports that McConnell is privately supportive and expressed that that scenario is unlikely.

This official acknowledged that this impeachment, because of the riots at the Capitol, "is a lot more personal to some of these members than a phone call to Ukraine's president."