In the wake of reports that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately supports the impeachment of President Donald Trump over last week's deadly mob attack, Democratic lawmakers and progressive advocacy groups said the GOP leader must immediately set a trial in motion following the House's expected vote Wednesday to charge Trump with inciting insurrection.
"If the reports are true, this is the first and maybe last time MoveOn agrees with Mitch McConnell. Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses," Rahna Epting, executive director of progressive advocacy group MoveOn, said in a statement. "Which is why McConnell must move to start an immediate trial in the Senate."
"We know the forces that attacked the Capitol last week are planning more attacks," Epting continued. "We cannot afford to wait one more minute. Every moment Donald Trump is in the White House our nation is put in further danger."
News of the soon-to-be Senate minority leader's private support for Trump's impeachment—and possible support for his conviction—came as the House late Tuesday approved a non-binding resolution formally urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip the president of his power during his final days in office.
But before the House passed the resolution in a largely party-line vote of 223-205, Pence sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) making clear that he has no intention of invoking the 25th Amendment, claiming such a move would "set a terrible precedent."
"Pure cowardice," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) tweeted in response to Pence's refusal to act. "We must impeach and remove Trump from office immediately."
Just a week before Trump is set to leave office, the House plans to vote Wednesday on an impeachment article charging the lame-duck incumbent with "incitement of insurrection" against the U.S. government. The White House—which is not expected to mount an aggressive defense against the impeachment effort—reportedly expects around two dozen House Republicans to vote for the article.
Wednesday's vote will pave the way for a Senate trial to determine whether Trump is convicted and potentially barred from running for office in the future. But with President-elect Joe Biden set to take office in just seven days, the timeline for the trial remains highly uncertain even as McConnell privately throws his support behind the impeachment effort.
According to the New York Times, McConnell "has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party."
But the Kentucky Republican has not taken the necessary steps to ensure that a Senate trial takes place before Trump leaves office, leaving open the possibility that the proceedings could be put off for months. The Washington Post reported Monday that Biden, "scrambling to ensure the effort does not bog down the start of his tenure, pressed the Senate on whether it could simultaneously hold a trial of the president and pass urgently needed bills."
During a press conference on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged McConnell to reconvene the Senate in order to begin the trial immediately after the impeachment article is transmitted by the House, dismissing the Kentucky Republican's claim that the upper chamber's rules prohibit such a move without the consent of all 100 senators.
"Leader McConnell is saying he can't call the Senate back after the House votes for impeachment because it requires unanimous consent—the consent of every senator. That's not true," said Schumer. "There was legislation passed in 2004 that allows the Senate minority leader and majority leader to jointly reconvene the Senate in times of emergency."
"This is a time of emergency," Schumer continued. "I've asked him to call the Senate back. All he needs is my agreement—I'm still minority leader—and his agreement, he's majority leader. We could come back ASAP and vote to convict Donald Trump and get him out of office now before any further damage is done."