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McConnell: Vote of Conscience for Trump01/16 10:13

   President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe 
Biden's inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is telling 
senators their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president over the 
Capitol riot will be a "vote of conscience."

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to 
start after Joe Biden's inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch 
McConnell, is telling senators their decision on whether to convict the 
outgoing president over the Capitol riot will be a "vote of conscience."

   The timing for the trial, the first of a president no longer in office, has 
not yet been set. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear Friday that 
Democrats intend to move swiftly on President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion 
COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send 
Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office Wednesday.

   Pelosi called the recovery package a "matter of complete urgency."

   The uncertainty of the scheduling, despite the House's swift impeachment of 
Trump just a week after the deadly Jan. 6 siege, reflects the fact that 
Democrats do not want the Senate trial proceedings to dominate the opening days 
of the Biden administration.

   With security on alert over the threat of more potential violence heading 
into the inauguration, the Senate is also moving quickly to prepare for 
confirming Biden's nominee for National Intelligence Director, Avril Haines. A 
committee hearing is set for the day before the inauguration, signaling a 
confirmation vote to install her in the position could come swiftly once the 
new president is in office.

   Many Democrats have pushed for an immediate impeachment trial to hold Trump 
accountable and prevent him from holding future office, and the proceedings 
could still begin by Inauguration Day. But others have urged a slower pace as 
the Senate considers Biden's Cabinet nominees and the newly Democratic-led 
Congress considers priorities like the coronavirus plan.

   Biden's incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said Friday the 
Senate can do both.

   "The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the 
business of the people," she said.

   Psaki noted that during Trump's first impeachment trial last year, the 
Senate continued to hold hearings each day. "There is some precedent," she said.

   Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be 
prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to the 
defeated president's tenure. He was first impeached by the House in 2019 over 
his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit.

   When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will 
be making the case that Trump's incendiary rhetoric hours before the bloody 
attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but rather part of an escalating 
campaign to overturn the November election. It culminated, they will argue, in 
the Republican president's rally cry to "fight like hell" as Congress was 
tallying the Electoral College votes to confirm he'd lost to Biden.

   For Republican senators, the trial will be a perhaps final test of their 
loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states 
back home, and their own experiences sheltering at the Capitol as a pro-Trump 
mob ransacked the building and attempted to overturn Biden's election. It will 
force a further re-evaluation of their relationship with the defeated 
president, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate.

   "These men weren't drunks who got rowdy --- they were terrorists attacking 
this country's constitutionally-mandated transfer of power," said Sen. Ben 
Sasse, R-Neb., in a statement Friday.

   "They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody 
constitutional crisis. They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the 
law."

   McConnell, who has spent the past days talking to senators and donors, is 
telling them the decision on whether or not to convict Trump is theirs alone 
--- meaning the leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way 
or the other.

   Last week's assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and flashed 
unsettling imagery around the globe, the most serious breach of the Capitol 
since the War of 1812, and the worst by home-grown intruders.

   Pelosi told reporters on Friday that the nine House impeachment managers, 
who act as the prosecutors for the House, are working on taking the case to 
trial.

   "The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by 
shining a light on the truth," said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., who will serve 
as an impeachment manager.

   Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House on the single charge, incitement 
of insurrection, in lightning-quick proceedings just a week after after the 
siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach, the 
most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment.

   McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is 
done with Trump, but he has not signaled how he would vote. McConnell continues 
to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial next week 
could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take 
control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from 
Georgia.

   No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a 
two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. But conviction of 
Trump is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and 
wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the 
Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election.

   Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday, "Such unlawful actions cannot 
go without consequence." She said in a statement that the House responded 
"appropriately" with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments.

   At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about 
Trump's actions, but others have signaled their preference to move on. Sen. Tom 
Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement saying he opposes impeachment against a 
president who has left office. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is 
building support for launching a commission to investigate the siege as an 
alternative to conviction.

   The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step 
in finalizing Biden's victory as lawmakers fled for shelter and police, guns 
drawn, barricaded the doors to the House chamber.

   A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and 
police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities 
said were medical emergencies.

 
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