Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not try to shield President Trump from a trial in the Senate if the House approves articles of impeachment.
There has been speculation that the Kentucky Republican, a key Trump ally, might assume parliamentary powers to force a floor vote on a motion to dismiss charges brought by the House, sparing the president the political jeopardy of an impeachment trial.
But McConnell told reporters on Wednesday the process would follow long-standing Senate rules. The trial would be overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who would hold sole discretion to rule on motions offered by individual senators, including any by the majority leader.
“Under the impeachment rules of the Senate, we’ll take the matter up, the chief justice will be in the chair, we will have to convene every day six days out of seven, 12:30 or 1 o’clock in the afternoon,” McConnell said. “Senators will not be allowed to speak, which will be good therapy for a number of them, and we intend to do our constitutional responsibility.”
McConnell briefed Senate Republicans on Wednesday, explaining to them their role in the impeachment process during a regularly scheduled closed-door lunch meeting, a member in attendance confirmed. McConnell reviewed scenarios for how a trial might unfold if the House approves articles of impeachment.
While Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, nominated by President George W. Bush, would approve or deny motions, including any to call for a dismissal of the trial, the Senate has some leeway to choose which motions would be considered.
In 1998, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate, then in GOP hands, agreed on a list of motions that would be in order during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. That list was approved by a floor vote of the full Senate and accepted by William Rehnquist, who was chief justice at the time.
This Senate does not have to adopt that approach for Trump. Without a preapproved list of motions, individual senators might have more flexibility to influence the trial and react as evidence and testimony dictate. However, without a list of preapproved motions, Roberts would have more power to decide which are in order and which are not.