WASHINGTON: Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in US Senate and until recently a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, has said he will listen to legal arguments before deciding whether to convict the outgoing president.
“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,” Senator McConnel wrote in a letter to Republican senators after the impeachment vote.
Senator McConnel played a key role in continuing the joint congressional session after the mob attack and in confirming Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
The joint session confirmed Mr Biden as the winner and paved the way for his oath taking on Jan 20.
The attack caused a major change in Mr McConnell’s attitude towards President Trump as he not only condemned the storming but also criticised Trump for questioning the election results.
In the past, he had either supported the president’s moves or had remained silent. He also opposed Mr Trump’s first impeachment 13 months ago and played a key role in thwarting the attempt to unseat him.
The pro-Trump Fox News reported that after the Jan 6 attack, Mr McConnell told his colleagues that he was “done” and “furious” with the president.
But in a statement posted on his site after the House vote on Wednesday, Senator McConnel ruled out the possibility of holding an early impeachment trial.
“The Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting (Jan 19) following receipt of the article from the House,” he wrote,
“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 added.
Senator McConnel pointed out that the Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials so far and those lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days, respectively.
“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,” he said.
He noted that the president-elect himself stated last week that his inauguration on Jan 20 was the ‘quickest’ path for any change in the occupant of the presidency.
“In light of this reality, I believe it will best serve our nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming administration.”
Although the House voted on Wednesday, the Senate will consider the article of impeachment after it receives a formal request to do so.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will decide when to transmit the article to the Senate, which must either dismiss the charge or hold a trial. At least 67 of the 100 senators are needed for conviction.
This would require Mr Trump’s removal from office.
Although the Democrats will control the Senate after Jan 19, with Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote, the conviction cannot happen without Republican support.