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McConnell wants to push Trump's Senate impeachment trial to mid-February

McConnell’s proposal is a deal to give both sides time to prepare for former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.
Image: Mitch McConnell
On the first full day of the new Democratic majority in the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber for the start of business as minority leader on Thursday.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial should start in mid-February, timing he laid out during a conference call with Republican colleagues Thursday, multiple sources on the call said.

Included in McConnell's proposal is a deal to begin the Senate proceedings in February so both sides can properly prepare for Trump's second impeachment trial, multiple people on the call said. Schumer could be open to the proposal, giving him more time to confirm President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who was on the call, said his understanding was that McConnell, R-Ky., briefed the conference before going to Schumer, D-N.Y.

"I think we know that we want to make sure that if the Democrats are going to do this impeachment that the president has a right to due process. And in order to do that, he has to prepare a case, they've got to set up the rules and so forth, so I think it'd be very difficult to start before then," Rounds said.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., also said he thinks the trial could begin mid-February.

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McConnell said in a statement Thursday: "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. 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.

"At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency," the statement said.

Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., punted on the question of timing when reporters asked them about it earlier Thursday. Pelosi has yet to indicate when she would send the article of impeachment to the Senate, having said only "soon."

Schumer's spokesman, Justin Goodman, said: "We received Leader McConnell's proposal that only deals with pre-trial motions late this afternoon. We will review it and discuss it with him."

Asked whether President Joe Biden would support moving the trial to February, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield reiterated what Biden has previously said, that he will leave it up to Senate leadership to determine the mechanics and the timing.

Bedingfield said Biden wants the Senate to conduct the trial in a way that allows it to move forward with Covid-19 relief legislation as quickly as possible.