Trump trial pending, McConnell calls it ‘vote of conscience’

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe Biden’s inauguration, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell told 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 USD1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office on 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 January 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 on 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.

Mitch McConnell in Washington. PHOTO: AP