McConnell remains undecided on convicting Trump in Senate trial

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told his GOP colleagues in a note Wednesday afternoon that he remains undecided on whether he’ll vote to convict the president at his upcoming impeachment trial.

“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,” McConnell said.

Simply being open to voting to convict is significant for McConnell, who denounced Trump’s first impeachment as a political exercise with “zero chance” of removing the president.

On Wednesday, 10 House Republicans voted to impeach the president as the House approved a single article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. He is the first president to be impeached twice. The Senate process will begin following receipt of the article from the House.

McConnell said last week that the earliest the Senate could take up the articles would be Jan. 19, unless all 100 senators agree to come back early.

In a statement following the impeachment vote, McConnell said that there is no chance the Senate could have a trial before Trump leaves office.

“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 said. “The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively.”

He added, “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. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.”

House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., however, pressed for a swift trial in the Senate.

“A Senate trial can begin immediately, with agreement from the current Senate Majority Leader to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session, or it will begin after January 19th,” he said in a statement. “But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, announced she would vote to impeach Trump.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement.

Cheney’s comments followed a New York Times report that McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that the impeachment effort “will make it easier” to purge Trump from the GOP.

Trump monitored the impeachment proceedings largely from the Oval Office, an administration official told NBC News on Wednesday. There has been outreach between the White House and Republican leadership but the official did not give specific details.

“As much as we can, we are focusing on the transition, highlighting the success of the last four years, and continuing the work of government until the next administration takes over,” the official told NBC News.

The official said they have “minor concerns,” about the Senate convicting the president given news reports that McConnell is privately supportive, and expressed that scenario is unlikely.

This official acknowledges this impeachment, because of the riots at the Capitol, “is a lot more personal to some of these members than a phone call to Ukraine’s president.”

Image: Dartunorro ClarkDartunorro Clark

Dartunorro Clark is a political reporter for NBC News.

Kasie Hunt

Kasie Hunt, the host of MSNBC’s “Way Too Early,” is a Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News.

Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander

contributed.

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