Friday, 22 January 2021

Mitch McConnell offers a deal to delay Donald Trump's impeachment trial for two weeks to give ex-president time to prepare a defense - as he FINALLY finds a lawyer to take his case

 Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will ask Democrats to delay the start of Donald Trump's impeachment trial until early February to give the former president's legal team time to prepare a defense.

McConnell revealed his plans on a phone call with Republican senators Thursday. 

'Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake,' McConnell said in a statement.


He proposed the following timeline, which tracks with the timeline of Trump's first impeachment trial:

  • January 28: Impeachment article arrives at Senate, senators sworn in
  • February 4: Deadline for Trump's response to the article of impeachment and the House's pre-trial brief
  • February 11: Trump's pre-trial brief due
  • February 13: House rebuttal pre-trail brief due 

Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana said McConnell confirmed Trump had finally hired a lawyer - named as election law specialist Butch Bowers - and discussions had started regarding the trial procedure.

'McConnell said that an attorney had been hired and that they agreed to certain procedure and process, and timing,' he told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday.

'From what I understand from today's conversation is, it does not get started until sometime mid-February, due to the fact that the process, as it occurred in the House evolved so quickly, and that it is not in line with the time you need to prepare to prepare for a defense in a Senate trial,' Braun said of the timing. 

McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have been working behind the scenes to come up with a timeline and process for Trump's second impeachment trial. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending over the article of impeachment while logistics are being worked out.

The delay could be part of deal with Senate Democrats to start confirming President Joe Biden's cabinet.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who is close to Biden, said Democrats would be open to the delay if the Senate starts confirming Biden's cabinet nominees.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will ask Democrats to delay the start of Donald Trump's impeachment trial until early February to give the former president's legal team time to prepare a defense

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will ask Democrats to delay the start of Donald Trump's impeachment trial until early February to give the former president's legal team time to prepare a defense

Butch Bowers of South Carolina is a former chairman of the state Election Commission and an attorney who specializes in election issues

Butch Bowers of South Carolina is a former chairman of the state Election Commission and an attorney who specializes in election issues


'Democrats will be open to considering a delay that allows former President Trump time to assemble his legal team and his defense for the impeachment trial, if we are making progress on confirming the very talented, seasoned, and diverse team that president Joe Biden has nominated to serve in his cabinet,' he told CNN. 

Republicans argue the House of Representatives impeached Trump so quickly - it did so in one day with very little debate - that the former president needs time to organize a defense. 

'The president was shut out in the House so his team needs some time to prepare. I would think that managers would also. So I'm very supportive of the proposal made by Senator McConnell. I think it's fair to everybody,' Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally on Capitol Hill, said. 

He also said he'd spoken to Trump earlier Thursday.

'The president looks forward to getting this behind him. Believes it’s unconstitutional and damages his presidency but you know he's gonna have his day in court and that's the way the system work does,' he said. 

Additionally, Trump has finally found a lawyer to represent him in his upcoming impeachment trial - a South Carolina attorney who is an expert in election law issues. 

Graham revealed the news on conference call with GOP senators on Thursday afternoon.

Butch Bowers is a former chairman of the state Election Commission and an attorney who specializes in election issues. He also served as counsel in Florida for John McCain's president campaign, did work for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and serves as a Judge Advocate for the South Carolina Air National Guard, according to his website

'I think he's gonna have a good one,' Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill of Trump's legal team. 'Butch Bowers, I think, will be the sort of the anchor tenant. But I've known Butch for a long time, solid guy.'

He described Bowers as 'involved in very complex litigation. He's represented the state of South Carolina and, you know, federal court over, lots of issues. He's a Judge Advocate.'

Bowers' hiring will likely raise questions about whether Trump will want to try to revive his false claims that the election was fraudulent and stolen from him.  

Trump's trial could last a mere three days as senators don't feel the need for a protracted event. His first impeachment trial lasted 20 days.   

Trump, on Wednesday, spent his first afternoon out of office at his Mar-a-Lago residence on the phone with allies.  

Pelosi: Senate is ready for impeachment trial against Trump
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Former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate could last a mere three days once it gets started - the start date remains unclear

Former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate could last a mere three days once it gets started - the start date remains unclear

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (left) said he spoke to Trump on Thursday and confirmed Trump has a lawyer to defend him during his trial

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (left) said he spoke to Trump on Thursday and confirmed Trump has a lawyer to defend him during his trial 

McConnell: The MAGA mob was fed lies by President Trump
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He had two queries: asking if GOP senators will vote to bar him from ever running for office again, two people with knowledge of the calls told The Daily Beast.  He also asked what lawyers should represent him in trial.

There were reports the former president was having trouble finding a legal team to represent him. Members of his first impeachment legal team, including Jay Sekulow and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, aren't interested. 

Graham, a close Trump ally, is one of the people who spoke to the former president on Wednesday and confirmed the former president's troubles. 

'I think he's going to get a legal team here pretty soon,' Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

He said his advice to Trump's legal team would be to focus on the constitutional question of whether or not a former president can be tried for treason. 

'I'd make that argument. There's a lot of support in the law, legal, academic types,' he said. 'We'll make our own decisions about did the president go too far, was this incitement under the law, what's the right outcome there? So it should be a quick trial really, quite frankly.'

He said of Trump: 'I don't think he believes he played a role in the defiling of the Capitol. I think the argument that the election was stolen was overdone and got people ginned up, I think he's responsible for that, but people's decision to come here and take over the place, that lies with them. But his last couple of statements have been good, you know, rejecting violence.'

Other lawyers who have defended Trump in the past - including former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Eric Herschmann, Pat Philbin and Marc Kasowitz - aren't interested, Bloomberg Law reported.  

It's also unclear what role Rudy Giuliani, the president's private attorney, would play. 

Giuliani first told ABC News he would defend the president but other reports indicated Trump wasn't sure he wanted the former New York City mayor on his team. 

The following day he told the same outlet that he could not be involved because he was a 'witness,' having spoken at the Ellipse rally where he said: 'Let's have trial by combat.'  

The only name which has been seriously floated so far is that of John Eastman, who spoke beside Giuliani at the same rally and who came up with the idea that Mike Pence could unilaterally reject states' slates of electors - which the vice president refused to do.

Trump has called him a 'respected constitutional scholar' but Eastman has lost his job at the private Chapman University in California over speaking at the rally.

He was also the lawyer behind the 'birther' idea that Kamala Harris was not a 'natural-born citizen' because her parents were not citizens when she was born in California.

The claim was ridiculed by experts and criticized as racist. 

Alan Dershowitz, who defended Trump at his first trial, has also ruled himself out, saying he would defend the president in 'the court of public opinion.'

It's unclear what role Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani would play, with the former New York mayor saying first that he would represent Trump, then that having spoken at the Ellipse rally before the MAGA riot, he could not because he was a witness. The only name floated as a defender is John Eastman (left) who also spoke at the rally. It cost him his job as a tenured law professor at Chapman University in California

It's unclear what role Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani would play, with the former New York mayor saying first that he would represent Trump, then that having spoken at the Ellipse rally before the MAGA riot, he could not because he was a witness. The only name floated as a defender is John Eastman (left) who also spoke at the rally. It cost him his job as a tenured law professor at Chapman University in California

Members of Trump's first impeachment legal team, including attorney Jay Sekulow, center, his son, Jordan Sekulow, left, and then White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have all indicated they are not interested in representing Trump again

Members of Trump's first impeachment legal team, including attorney Jay Sekulow, center, his son, Jordan Sekulow, left, and then White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have all indicated they are not interested in representing Trump again

White House press secretary Jen Psaki down played concerns Trump's trail would overshadow President Biden's first weeks in office

White House press secretary Jen Psaki down played concerns Trump's trail would overshadow President Biden's first weeks in office


 Trump will face trial on the charges of 'incitement of insurrection' for his role in the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill, where his MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol building, interrupting the certification of the election.

Lawmakers have privately discussed a three-day impeachment trial, Politico's Playbook reported, which would be a record for any such matter.

Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, a House impeachment manager, said Thursday he didn't know how long a trial would take but didn't think it would take as long as Trump's first trial, which lasted 20 days.

'I don’t think it will take as long as the last one,' he told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Some consider the case open-and-shut given Trump's actions on the day of riot. In comparison, the president's first impeachment trial was a web to untangle regarding his call to the Ukrainian president and the legalities there.  

At a rally the morning of riot, Trump told his supporters to march on the Capitol - a speech that resulted in many Republicans blaming him for the subsequent mob.

But a speedy trial also has its benefits. 

Republicans don't believe there are 16 votes to convict the president - the number of senators needed to join Democrats. And many are ready to move on from their former president.

'Some people are for censure, some are for [convicting Trump], some say it's unconstitutional. People are all over the place,' a Republican senator told Punchbowl. 

Notably, unlike Trump's last impeachment trial, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is telling senators to vote their conscience - a dramatic difference from last year when McConnell actively worked to acquit Trump when he was impeached the first time.

An alternative would be for senators to vote to disqualify Trump from holding future office. The Senate could apply that punishment by a simple majority vote, but only if two-thirds of senators first found Trump guilty. It's an option that could appeal to many Republican senators since it would prevent Trump from running for president again in 2024.

A short trial would also allow the Senate, now controlled by Democrats, to focus on President Joe Biden's legislative agenda and confirming his Cabinet nominees. 

Biden's ambitious legislative plans include a $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan and reforming immigration. 

The White House is downplaying any questions about concerns Trump's trial could overshadow their first weeks in office.  

'We are confident that ... the Senate ... can do their constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the American people,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her first briefing. 

'He's going to leave the mechanics, the timing and the specifics of how Congress moves forward on impeachment to them,' she noted.

But there has been no decision on when to start the trial. Speaker Nancy Pelosi still has to send the article of impeachment to the Senate - a technical matter but the upper chamber cannot begin the process without it. 

Pelosi said she'll be talking with the House impeachment managers 'in the next few days' about when 'the Senate will be ready' to receive the article. 

'We will be in another few days, when I'll be talking with managers, as to when the Senate will be ready for the trial of the then President of the United States for his role in instigating an insurrection on the House, on the Capital of the United States, on our democracy to undermine the will of the people,' she said. 

The speaker said she was waiting on President Joe Biden's inauguration to take place and for the Senate to return to session. With Kamala Harris becoming vice president, Democrats now control the upper chamber. 

'We had to wait for the president, the Senate to be in session. They've now informed us they're ready to receive. The question is, other questions about how a trial will proceed. But we are, we are ready,' she said at her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

Senator Dick Dubin, a member of the Democratic leadership, told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning it's unclear when they'll receive the article and what form the trial will take.

'It's still unresolved as to when she's sending it over. It could be today, unlikely. Could be tomorrow. And then what we're going to do with it, is whether or not it's going to be a full blown trial with evidence and witnesses. Or quote expedited whatever that means that final decision isn't even closed,' he said.  

There's also the issue of whether Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial.

The Constitution states that 'When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside.'

But Trump is a former president, which could give Roberts a way out of presiding.   

That would put Vice President Kamala Harris as next in line to preside over the trial, in her constitutional role as the Senate's presiding officer.    

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer seems unlikely to ask Harris to do it. 

It is up to the Senate to set the rules of the trial and if the two party leaders, Schumer and McConnell, want to see Roberts preside, it is difficult to see how he would not, short of formally turning down their request.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who serves as president pro temp, is another potential candidate. 

Schumer and McConnell are in talks about a possible power-sharing deal governing daily Senate operations, similar to one struck two decades ago.

Schumer said Thursday he is waiting on Pelosi to send the article over but noted he and McConnell are talking about how the trial will proceed.

'Leader McConnell and I are trying to come up with a bipartisan agreement on how to conduct the trial. But make no mistake about it, there will be a trial, there will be a vote up or down on whether to convict the president,' he said.

He added they were waiting on Pelosi. 

'We’ll have to wait until she sends the article over to figure out how to do all that,' he said.

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