Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday that the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will begin Feb. 8, fulfilling a request from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
By pushing the trial into February, it gives Democrats an opportunity to approve the nominations of newly-minted President Joe Biden. Republicans also argued that a speedy trial would not have given Trump ample time to assemble a defense to a charge that he incited the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Schumer and McConnell flipped roles on Wednesday after Democrats seated three new members, including two from Georgia. The two seats in Georgia were previously held by Republicans. With Democrats in the majority of both the House and Senate, Democrats can largely dictate the timing of when to move forward with a conviction of Trump.
“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,” McConnell said on Thursday. “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.”
McConnell, however, has not indicated which way he would vote. On Tuesday, he issued a strong condemnation of Trump’s rhetoric leading up to the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6. It would take 17 Republican senators to join all 50 Democratic senators to secure a conviction.
"The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty. The mob was fed lies, they were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like."
Last week, Democrats, along with 10 members of the GOP caucus, voted to impeach Trump.
There are still a number of questions about what an impeachment trial of a former president would look like given that Trump is now out of power. Some legal scholars have even questioned whether an impeachment trial can be held for a former president. While there is no office for Trump to be removed from, Trump could potentially be barred from holding future federal office depending on the results of the conviction trial.