The US House speaker refuses to give a specific timeline as Senate leaders continue to haggle over details
The timing of the impeachment trial is an issue as Trump is already out of office, and Biden is seeking to lock in his Cabinet amid multiple national crises
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she would “soon” take steps that would formally launch the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump but refused to offer a specific timeline as Senate leaders continue to haggle over details.
Pelosi is expected to transfer the House’s article of impeachment against Trump in the coming days, a step that will require the Senate to swiftly begin its days-long trial into charges that Trump incited the deadly insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month.
Pelosi could deliver that article as soon as Friday, more than a week after a bipartisan House voted to convict Trump, according to lawmakers and aides. That would tee up a trial to start the next day the Senate is in session.
But several Democrats said part of Pelosi’s calculation is waiting for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to reach a power-sharing agreement for the 50-50 Senate, something they are still negotiating.
“They’ve now informed us they’re ready to receive,” Pelosi told reporters of the Senate on Thursday, noting that there are “other questions about how a trial will proceed”.
“I’m not going to be telling you when it was going,” she added, declining to offer further specifics.
The House voted to impeach Trump on January 13, with one week left in his term as every Democrat and nearly a dozen Republicans warned he posed a clear and present danger to the country.
But Pelosi has so far held off sending the article to the Senate, a process that involves the House’s impeachment managers hand-delivering the paperwork across the Capitol dome.
It is a similar move to Pelosi’s handling of Trump’s first impeachment in December 2019, when Democrats waited weeks over Congress’s winter recess to transit the articles as they sought to carefully choreograph the start of the Senate’s trial.
This time, the process is more complicated as the start of a Senate impeachment trial would come as Trump is out of office and a newly inaugurated President Joe Biden attempts to lock in his Cabinet amid multiple national crises.
The Senate is moving quickly to approve key national security posts this week, but a trial – which would require senators to sit in the chamber six days a week for its duration – would almost certainly slow the process for at least some of Biden’s nominees.
Further complicating things, Schumer and McConnell have yet to reach an agreement for governing the Senate, which several Democrats said will have more influence over the trial than when Pelosi sends over the article.
Unlike in 2019, however, when almost all Republicans were in favour of acquitting Trump, his fate in the Senate remains uncertain.
It is unlikely that 17 Republicans would vote to convict their former president, but key Republican senators, including McConnell, say they remain undecided and the Republican Party conference’s calculation could change quickly.
Some Republicans have questioned the constitutionality of holding an impeachment trial now that Trump is no longer in office. Some have also complained that the Democrats’ move to impeach Trump – regardless of his involvement in the January 6 Capitol attack that left five people dead – would undercut Biden’s calls for national unity at his inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
But Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she is “not worried” about that argument.
“The president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection,” Pelosi said. “I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let’s just forget it and move on.’ That’s not how you unify.”
“Just because he’s now gone – thank God – you don’t say to a president, ‘Do whatever you want in the last months of your administration. You’re going to get a get-out-of-jail card free,’ because people think you should make nice, nice, and forget that people died here on January 6.”