The leaders of the U.S. Senate agreed on Friday to postpone former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial by two weeks, giving the chamber more time to focus on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and Cabinet nominees before turning to the contentious showdown over Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said the trial will begin during the week of Monday, February 8, an arrangement praised by the chamber’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell.
The House of Representatives is due to formally deliver to the Senate on Monday the impeachment charge accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection, a move that ordinarily would have triggered the beginning of the trial within a day. The charge stems from Trump’s incendiary speech to supporters before they stormed the Capitol on January 6 in a rampage that delayed the formal congressional certification of Biden’s election victory and left five people dead, including a police officer.
Schumer said the new timeline will allow the Senate to move quickly on key Biden appointees and other tasks while giving House lawmakers who will prosecute the case and Trump’s team more time to prepare for the trial.
The timeline was a compromise after McConnell had asked the Democratic-led House to delay sending the charge until next Thursday, and called on Schumer to postpone the trial until mid-February to give Trump more time to prepare a defense.
Doug Andres, a spokesman for McConnell, said the senator was pleased Democrats had given Trump’s defense more time, and laid out a timeline that could have the trial begin as soon as Feb. 9.
“This is a win for due process and fairness,” Andres said.
Conviction in the Senate would require a two-thirds vote – meaning 17 of Trump’s fellow Republicans would have to vote against him. A conviction would clear the way for a second vote, requiring a simply majority, to bar Trump from holding office again.
Trump has said he may seek the presidency again in 2024. His fate could depend on McConnell, whose position is likely to influence other Republicans. McConnell said this week that the mob that attacked the Capitol was “fed lies” and “provoked by the president and other powerful people.”