Mitch’s impeachment pitch
The new Senate Minority Leader has a proposal for Democrats: Wait a few weeks to begin Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Sen. Mitch McConnell argues Trump deserves time to plan a defense, especially after the House impeached him in warp speed, with no hearings or opportunity to give his side of the story. But this plan may also appeal to Democrats, who are eager to get President Joe Biden nominees confirmed. Will they bite?
Here’s what we know.
McConnell’s proposed pre-trial timeline:
Jan. 28: Read the article of impeachment on the floor, swear in the senators and issue the summons to Trump.
Feb. 4: Trump’s answer to the impeachment article and the House brief is due.
Feb. 11: Trump’s pre-trial brief is due. And the House also needs to submit its response to Trump on this date.
Feb. 13: Two days later, the House would submit their rebuttal pre-trial brief.
“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 said in a statement Thursday.
Burgess, Sarah and Heather -- who reported this proposal ahead of the announcement -- have the details: http://politi.co/3qLoPjR
But it’s not up to McConnell. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the House impeachment managers are likely to huddle together to make a decision on this proposal, and they have the power to choose when the trial will get underway.
Something to keep in mind: The longer the delay, the higher the likelihood that raw emotions driving Democrats and some very disillusioned Republicans to charge headfirst into impeachment will seep away. This could play well for Republicans who are trying to protect Trump heading into the trial.
PRIVATE PELOSI: Meanwhile, Pelosi still hasn’t sent the impeachment article to the Senate, simply telling reporters in her weekly press conference on Thursday that it will be “soon.”
The top Dem also dismissed GOP claims that the impeachment trial undermines Biden’s pledge for unity, arguing that Trump doesn’t “get-out-of-jail-free card” just because he is on his way out, and that blowing past what he did is not unifying. Sarah and Heather have more: http://politi.co/3qLoPjR
Related Reads: After harrowing ordeal, Rep. Joe Neguse to play key role in impeachment trial by WaPo’s Paul Kane: http://wapo.st/3p227Ul
ON DECK: One of Biden’s allies in the Senate is already onboard. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told CNN Thursday that he thinks Democrats will be “open to considering a delay” if they make leeway confirming Biden’s nominees.
SENATE GOP’s DEFENSE?: Some Senate Republicans are rallying around the long-shot idea of dismissing the impeachment trial before it even starts.
In more than a dozen interviews with GOP senators, Andrew found that Republicans broadly support the claim that the Senate doesn’t have the constitutional authority to put a private citizen on trial. BUT this is a disputed legal argument, with legal scholars including those from the conservative Federalist Society, arguing that the federal courts have deferred to Congress to set its own rules, including in cases of impeachment.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) indicated in an interview that this concern was even weighing on those who are open to voting to convict Trump, “irrespective of what they might think about the merits.” And Trump’s Senate allies also believe it is Trump's most potent argument heading into the trial. Andrew unpacks it all: http://politi.co/2Y96PDL
(Here’s a fun Senate impeachment whip list interactive from WaPo: http://wapo.st/365Iu6t)
HISTORY LESSON: A former president has never faced an impeachment trial in the Senate, but in 1876 the Senate tried William Belknap after he had already resigned as Secretary of War: http://bit.ly/2LTSYil
LAWYERING UP: Sen. Lindsey Graham announced Thursday that Butch Bowers, a DOJ alum who works in South Carolina, was joining Trump’s impeachment defense team (Trump’s previous legal team chose not to represent him this time around). And Graham says they are working on building out the team more. Bowers has previously represented some big GOP names in the Palmetto state, like former Gov. Nikki Haley as well as Mark Sanford, who lawmakers were considering impeaching in 2009 after he went to visit his mistress in Argentina.
“I think he's gonna have a good one,” said Graham, who recommended Bowers to Trump, according to Reuters. More from Gabby Orr and Meridith McGraw: http://politi.co/3izBuUp
Related Read: Columbia lawyer to represent Trump at impeachment trial: ‘It’ll be interesting to watch’ by The Post and Courier’s Andy Shain and Jamie Lovegrove: http://bit.ly/39TlZmd
CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Democrats are planning to lean heavily on videos of the Capitol assault, a tool they’ll use as visual proof of Trump’s role in inciting the riot, WaPo columnist Greg Sargent reports: http://wapo.st/3sNGQjl
HAPPY FRIDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill on this Jan. 22, where the internet is clearly and rightfully smitten with these mittens.
THURSDAY’S MOST CLICKED: Your Huddle host’s story on how lawmakers trapped on the House floor stood their ground was the winner.
R FOR RESISTANCE: Senate Republicans are NOT fans of Biden’s trillion dollar Covid relief proposal and they are warning he will not get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate for it to pass unless they make some serious changes. It’s too pricey for Republicans, who say Congress just passed a $900 billion stimulus package last month and this one isn’t bound to go anywhere.
This sets up a test for the new administration: Does the Biden White House work to compromise with the GOP or do they ultimately use partisan procedural maneuvers to get around their filibuster? Burgess has more: http://politi.co/398fwF0
Related Reads: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief by The Hill’s Mike Lillis: http://bit.ly/3o1t4WY | Enemies, a love story: Inside the 36-year Biden and McConnell relationship by Politico Mag’s Alex Thompson: http://politi.co/39R6prq
GOT 99 PROBLEMS: Rep. Liz Cheney — once a fast-rising star in the GOP — is now in the fight of her political life. After voting to impeach Trump, she is at risk of losing both her leadership job and her congressional seat. Oh, and she also was censured by a local county Republican Party back in Wyoming.
Here are some other nuggets gathered by Mel and your Huddle host in the course of our reporting:
-Making calls: Cheney has been making calls to members and hearing people out.
-Potential challengers: Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, who both gained national profiles defending Trump during his first impeachment, have privately expressed some interest in replacing Cheney; Stefanik has even been reaching out to lawmakers.
-In her own words: A compilation video is circulating in GOP circles of Dems citing Cheney's impeachment stance.
-Spammed offices: Pro-Cheney offices are getting spammed with hundreds of anti-Cheney emails.
-Boycotts? Some Republicans are threatening to boycott future GOP conference meetings if Cheney remains chair.
-Fear of retaliation: Several GOP members are worried about retaliation from leadership — in the form of committee assignments — if they publicly call to oust Cheney.
BUT, but but ... even though the threat and anger with Cheney is real, the process of booting her at the start of her leadership term is actually somewhat complicated and a pretty high bar: two-thirds of the House GOP needs to agree to even take a vote on a resolution calling for her to step aside.
And several senior Republicans think Cheney ultimately hangs on for now, especially since Republicans have a real shot at winning back the House and want to focus their attention there. (Running again for leadership next year, however, is a different story…)
Next week, Republicans will have a chance to air out their grievances about her impeachment vote at a closed-door conference meeting next week… A lot more here: http://politi.co/2LRHVGg
SPEAKING OF…Trump allies are seeking to enact revenge on the 10 House Republicans who supported impeachment last week. Think primary challengers and Trump donors turning off the financial spigot. Our Alex Isenstadt with more: http://politi.co/3p8DNjK
Related Read: Trump leaves behind a diminished GOP by our Elena Schneider: http://politi.co/361B1VX | Seven Senate Dems file an ethics complaint against ?Cruz and Hawley over their role in Jan. 6 attack, but action is unlikely by Roll Call’s Chris Marquette: http://bit.ly/3qLFMLl
HERE’S A HEADLINE: How gerrymandering will protect Republicans who challenged the election by Reid Epstein and Nick Corsanti: http://nyti.ms/3984L5e
‘WE FEEL INCREDIBLY BETRAYED’: Thousands of National Guardsmen were abruptly pushed to vacate congressional grounds on Thursday, forcing them instead to take their rest breaks outside and in nearby parking garages after two weeks of protecting the Capitol following the insurrection.
One Guardsman recalled to POLITICO that their group was abruptly told to vacate the Dirksen Senate Office building. They had to settle in “a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops,” my colleagues report.
Ouch, those optics: “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service,” the guardsman said. “Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed.” Lara Seligman, Natasha Bertrand, and Andrew Desiderio with the scoop: http://politi.co/2Me51Hb
In case you might’ve guessed, that is not going over well with some members → https://bit.ly/3c2lDw7
TWO .22s IN HIS SHOES: GOP Rep. Andy Harris tries to bring gun into House Chamber by HuffPo’s Matt Fuller: http://bit.ly/39SiHzD … This is now being investigated by the Capitol police, CNN’s Annie Grayer reports: http://cnn.it/2M9VbGa
NOPE, THAT’S NOT ADDING UP: GOP leader Kevin McCarthy last week said on the House floor that “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on congress by mob rioters.” But now he’s publicly saying he does not believe Trump’s remarks from the rally earlier in the day “provoked the attack.” POLITICO’S Benjamin Din has more on this retreat: http://politi.co/363yJp9
Related Read: Government Accountability Office opens investigation into security failures during Capitol riot by the Washington Examiner’s Micah Soellner: http://washex.am/2NmWXUR
THE IN ARE IN: Senate GOP campaign chair Rick Scott says he will support incumbents over any outside challenges. So Scott is behind Sen. John Thune if a Trump-backed challenger tries to go for his seat, or if Ivanka potentially runs against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.). “I’m supporting the incumbents,” Scott said. Burgess with the story: http://politi.co/3o4dwld
CAPITOL COVID: Rep. Ron Wright, who has been battling lung cancer, became the latest member to announce he has contracted Covid on Thursday, stating that he has been experiencing “minor symptoms.” Dallas News’ Tom Benning has more: http://bit.ly/39Y9o1d
WAIVED THROUGH: The House and the Senate both approved a waiver to permit retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as Defense secretary in the Biden administration. The full Senate is expected to confirm Austin, who would be the first Black defense secretary, this morning. Conor O’Brien has the details: http://politi.co/39WpbgS
Dominique Yelinski is joining Rep. Kevin Hern’s office as the new head of his legislative team, the office announced. Yelinski previously served as an advisor to the HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Kendra Pittman is joining The Appeal as producers/editors after previously working as a senior media producer for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The House will meet at 1:30 pm in a pro forma session. Their next meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Monday.
The Senate is back in session at 10 a.m.
10 a.m. The Senate Finance Committee is having a full committee markup to vote on the nomination of Janet Yellen, to be Biden’s Treasury secretary.
10:30 a.m.: The Senate will vote on confirmation of the Austin nomination.
12 p.m. Pelosi will participate in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ virtual 89th Winter Meeting at noon.
THURSDAY’S WINNER: David Cavicke was the first person to correctly guess Richard Nixon was the last president not to attend his successor’s inauguration, that of Gerald Ford.
The other correct answer, if resignations are not included, is Woodrow Wilson, who went to the Capitol with Warren Harding, but because Wilson was sick, he didn’t actually attend the actual inauguration.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From David: Joe Biden was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, defeating a Republican incumbent. In that same year, the only woman in the Senate was defeated for reelection. Who was she, what state did she serve and who beat her?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answer to [email protected].
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