(Jan. 21) Watch live as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly press conference on Thursday, January 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial remains in limbo as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds off on triggering a proceeding that could slow the newly Democratic-controlled Senate in confirming key Biden administration officials.
Some lawmakers and congressional officials have said the trial could get underway next week, but Pelosi hasn’t tipped her hand on when the House will formally transmit the single article of impeachment to the Senate.
“It’s still unresolved as to when she’s sending it over,” Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, told reporters on Thursday. “It could be today — unlikely — could be tomorrow. And then what we’re going to do with it, whether or not it’s going to be a full-blown trial with evidence and witnesses or ‘expedited,’ whatever that means, that final decision isn’t even close.”
Democrats won back the Senate on Wednesday after six years in the minority, with the swearing-in of two new Georgia senators elected Jan. 5, representing the tipping point. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has replaced Republican Mitch McConnell as the majority leader, but they are still working out details of how to organize the Senate, and that affects the procedures for the trial.
The House last week impeached Trump on a charge of inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Sending the article to the Senate would require an almost immediate start for the trial, inevitably drawing attention away from President Joe Biden’s first days in office and slowing confirmation of his cabinet picks, as most other Senate action gets shut down unless the Senate agrees to Biden’s request to dual-track the trial and other business.
“We are preparing for trial,” said Representative David Cicilline. The Rhode Island Democrat is one of the House’s nine impeachment managers who will prosecute the case against Trump.
Durbin and other Democratic lawmakers have suggested that proceedings could be substantially shorter than Trump’s first impeachment trial, in which he was acquitted because the evidence for the charge of inciting insurrection rests on the widely seen videos of Trump’s statements to his supporters and the aftermath.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday it’s up to Congress to conduct the trial. Biden is “going to leave it to them to determine what the path forward should be, on the pace, on the steps, on the mechanics,” she told MSNBC. “He’s going to focus on delivering what he feels he promised to deliver on when he was running for office.”
So far, only one of Biden’s nominees has been confirmed: Avril Haines as director of national intelligence. Votes on the others are likely to stretch into next week — leaving him sitting atop a U.S. government filled with acting chiefs at every other agency.
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