Trump impeachment trial could begin on inauguration day

January 14, 2021
President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial could begin on Inauguration Day, just as Democrat Joe Biden takes the oath of office in an ever-more-extraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure in the White House.

The timing is not set and depends heavily on when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decides to transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate.

Democrats hoping to avoid interrupting Biden’s inauguration have suggested holding back until the new president has a chance to get his administration going.

What is clear is that the trial ahead will be unlike any other in the nation’s history, the first for a president no longer in office.

And, politically, it will force a reckoning among some Republicans who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but he has not signaled how he would vote.

The Republican leader holds great sway in his party even though convening the trial will be among his last acts as majority leader.

Two new senators from Georgia, both Democrats, are to be sworn into office leaving the chamber divided 50-50.

That tips the majority to the Democrats once Kamala Harris takes office, as the vice president is a tie-breaker.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote” in a Senate impeachment trial.

Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House over the deadly Capitol siege, the only president in U.S. history twice impeached, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building.

The attack has left the nation’s capital, and other capital cites, under high security amid threats of more violence around the inauguration.

Pelosi has not said when she will take the next step to transmit the impeachment article, a sole charge of incitement of insurrection.

Under Senate procedure, the trial is set to start soon after the House delivers the article of impeachment.

That could mean starting the trial at 1 p.m. on Inauguration Day. The ceremony at the Capitol starts at noon..

After Trump’s first impeachment, in 2019, she withheld the articles for some time to set the stage for the Senate action.

Biden has said the Senate should be able to split its time and do both — hold the trial and start working on his priorities.

Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 acquit.

No president has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans have said that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.

Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

Unlike his first time, Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

The impeachment resolution is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.

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