Days before he was prepared to bring President Donald Trump to impeach for a second time with the US House of Representatives – questions are being raised as to what happens next.
Here are some possible scenarios if the House, as expected, attacks Trump on Wednesday to provoke last week’s attack on the US Capitol by its supporters as Congress certifies Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory:
The normal procedure for conducting a trial for a President impeached by the House is for the Senate.
The same thing happened last year when Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled impeachment to pressure the Ukraine leader to dig political dirt on Biden.
Trump was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.
This time, however, Trump has only one week left in the White House and Biden is to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20.
The lack of that time has given rise to debate and speculation as to whether the Senate can conduct a trial before Trump’s office.
Call the Senate early?
The Senate is under reconsideration and is not scheduled to return until January 19.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has said the trial may not begin until January 20 – the day Trump is about to leave office.
According to McConnell’s office, bringing the Senate back early would require the unanimous consent of all 100 senators – an unlikely scenario.
According to the office of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a 2004 resolution allows the Senate to return for emergency session with the consent of both Majority and Minority leaders.
Democratic Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday, there is nothing to stop the Senate from taking it immediately if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided he wanted to move forward.
Pelosi and McConnell
If Trump is impeached by the House, then it is up to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, to decide when to send the impeachment article.
She can send it to him soon after it passes on Wednesday or she can wait, as suggested by some Democrats, until Trump gets out of office and Biden lives comfortably.
Once it reaches the Senate, McConnell’s intentions are unclear.
The powerful Republican senator from Kentucky made the final bid to blame Trump in the Senate, managing to rally all Republican senators except Utah’s Mitt Romney.
But The New York Times reported Wednesday that McConnell believes Trump has committed an indecent crime and that the Republican Party has the opportunity to get rid of the real estate tycoon once and for all.
A two-thirds majority of the senators present is required to convict the president, meaning that if they are all in the Chamber, at least 17 Republicans will have to join the Democrats in voting for the sentence.
If the Senate is unable to conduct a trial before Trump leaves the White House on January 20, the question arises as to whether he can be tried after leaving office.
This has never happened before and some constitutional scholars argue that the former president cannot be tried by the Senate.
All three former presidential impeachments – Trump and Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – occurred while the leader was still in the White House.
Like Trump, both Johnson – in 1868 – and Clinton – in 1998–99 – were impeached by the House, but acquitted by the Senate.
But the House has impeached and the Senate has tried former senators and judges because they were no longer in office or on the bench.
One of the arguments being made to put Trump on trial even after he stepped down is that a conviction could prevent him from holding federal office again.
Trump has expressed interest in a possible presidential race again in 2024 and a simple majority vote of the Senate could prevent him from running the White House.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NB staff and published from a syndicated feed.)