Senate leaders on Friday announced Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will begin on February 9, a two-week delay that will allow President Joe Biden time to fill his cabinet and begin enacting his legislative agenda—namely a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package—before the proceedings against his predecessor. “The more time we have to get up and running to meet these crises, the better,” Biden said at the White House on Friday, expressing his support for a delay.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the House still plans to send over the article of impeachment, alleging “incitement of insurrection,” on Monday. That “exhibition” would normally lead to the formal commencement of the trial within a day, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber would then pause until the week of February 8 to give prosecution and defense time to prepare, while also allowing Biden to get his people confirmed and make headway on the COVID relief bill, the New York Times reports. Schumer laid out the schedule on the Senate floor Friday evening:
The delayed start is a compromise between Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader. McConnell, who initially proposed postponing the trial until mid-February to give Trump’s legal team time to prep, praised the deal, a slower timeline that allowed him to contend proceedings were fair—and also gives him and other Republicans more time to determine their positions, the Times notes. “Especially given the fast and minimal process in the House, Republicans set out to ensure the Senate’s next steps will respect former President Trump’s rights and due process, the institution of the Senate, and the office of the presidency,” a spokesman for McConnell said, calling the agreement “a win for due process and fairness.”
McConnell has reportedly privately signaled he may support convicting Trump to banish the former president, who has said he may run again in 2024, from the party, and said this week that the mob that stormed the Capitol was “fed lies” and “provoked by the president.” But the minority leader, whose decision is expected to influence others, also faces internal pressure to vote to acquit. Some of his Republican colleagues are already previewing the arguments they will likely use next month.
In the last month of his term, Trump became the first president to be impeached twice, and is also the only one to ever face trial after leaving office. The deal struck Friday “did not specify how a trial would proceed once oral arguments begin on Feb. 9, but both sides indicated they were looking to compress it into a handful of days, potentially allowing senators to reach a verdict by the end of that week,” according to the Times.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Jared and Ivanka’s Final Chapter in Washington Demolished Their Future
— After a Day of Violence, Trump’s Allies Are Jumping Ship
— The Unbearable Whiteness of Storming the Capitol
— Gary Cohn Is a Test Case for Trying to Wash Off the Trump Stink
— The Deeply Unsettling, Not Entirely Surprising Images of Trump’s Capitol Hill Mob
— Twitter Finally Muzzling Trump Is Too Little, Too Late
— The Eerie Charlottesville Echoes of Trump Supporters’ Capitol Coup
— From the Archive: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.