Let’s get this part of Schumer’s floor speech out of the way first. Hoo boy:
“Incite the erection” sounds like official-sounding jargon a cop or DA would use in a solicitation case. “At 2300 hours, the defendant approached a sex worker and requested a sexual act in exchange for money. At 2305, the worker proceeded to incite an erection.”
Anyway. Cocaine Mitch wanted to push the trial off into February, ostensibly to make sure that Trump had time to prepare as a matter of due process but possibly for self-serving strategic reasons. He proposed having Pelosi deliver the article of impeachment on Thursday, January 28. This morning Schumer told him no dice. The deed will be done on Monday the 25th.
JUST IN: Majority Leader Schumer says Speaker Pelosi will deliver article of impeachment against former Pres. Trump to Senate on Monday.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 22, 2021
Why would Democrats want to proceed to a trial at a moment when their top priority is getting Biden’s cabinet confirmed? Presumably because the longer this drags out, the fewer Republican votes to convict they’ll get. It’s too easy for the GOP to claim that the country has moved on, especially with members like Tom Cotton clinging to the dubious idea that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to try an official who’s already left office. That’s why Schumer repeatedly emphasizes in the clip that there *will* be a trial and McConnell’s caucus *will* need to take a vote on Trump’s guilt.
In fact, in a universe where Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue had won and McConnell still controlled the Senate, the GOP might have been able to muster the votes to dismiss the charges as moot before a trial began. Probably not — Romney, Collins, and Murkowski probably would have insisted on a trial. But they know this will be a dodgy vote for their colleagues. Maybe Mitch would have prevailed upon them not to force it.
As for disrupting confirmation of Biden’s nominees, the earlier start date might not interfere (much). This was McConnell’s proposed schedule of events:
McConnell’s proposed timeline:
🗓️ Jan. 28: Article read on floor, swear-in senators & issue Trump summons
🗓️ Feb. 4: Trump’s answer due
🗓️ Feb. 11: Trump’s pre-trial brief due & House submits response
🗓️ Feb. 13: House submits rebuttal pre-trial briefhttps://t.co/LPBYK9PMLg
— POLITICO (@politico) January 22, 2021
I assume Schumer will follow a similar schedule, meaning that there won’t be much action in the Senate next week. The two sides will be busy writing and submitting briefs, leaving the chamber free to focus on confirmation hearings. The week after next is when the trial should get rolling in earnest.
In the end, voting to acquit won’t be that difficult for Republicans. The jurisdictional argument is BS on stilts but they’re free to embrace it; the Supreme Court isn’t going to insert itself into this process and rule that former officials can be tried. For Senate GOPers, claiming that the matter is moot is precisely the sort of weaselly process argument politicians crave as an excuse to avoid taking a tough stance on the merits. No surprise that they’re lining up behind it:
Interviews with more than a dozen GOP senators revealed broad support for the claim that the Senate has no constitutional authority to put a private citizen on trial, which could translate into a substantial number of votes to scrap the trial altogether. The issue came up several times during a Senate GOP conference call Thursday afternoon, according to multiple senators.
The framework will spell out whether to allow for a motion to dismiss the trial at its outset — a vote that could signal the likelihood of the Senate convicting Trump. Seventeen Republicans would need to join all Democrats for Trump to be convicted. Some senators said they are considering supporting such a motion, if one is offered, as a way of voicing their objections to putting a former president on trial…
“Let the voters decide whether they want President Trump to run again,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said. “There’s nothing I see in the Constitution that allows you to impeach a president after he’s already left office.”
If it was as simple as “let the voters decide,” the Constitution wouldn’t explicitly grant the Senate the power to disqualify officials from holding office again. I’m interested to see what Dems do about the possibility of a motion to dismiss, though, as I think Schumer should *want* to let the chamber vote on that. For one thing, he might get some Republican votes for denying the motion — Romney’s a cinch — and then can claim that there’s bipartisan opposition to the GOP’s theory that the Senate lacks jurisdiction. For another, by giving Republicans an opportunity up front to state their position on jurisdiction, Schumer can frame the final vote on whether to convict or acquit as a vote on the merits of the charges against Trump. “Republicans have made clear their belief that this body can’t properly try an ex-president,” he might say. “But that belief did not prevail when we voted on their motion to dismiss. Now they must decide whether the former president is guilty of the charge against him.”
Republicans will vote to acquit anyway but at least then Dems would have a clearer argument that they see no problem with inciting an erection — errrr, insurrection. The only suspense at the trial, it looks like, will be whether Democrats decide to call witnesses and try to make the process as politically uncomfortable as possible for Republicans. If they’re not going to get a conviction, the least they can do is bring Brad Raffensperger in to testify about his phone call with Trump as evidence of how far the former president was willing to go to disrupt certification of Biden’s win. If instead Schumer’s going to do a perfunctory three-day trial where something like five Republicans vote to convict, what’s even the point?