Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected a plan to reconvene the Senate in an emergency session to hold trial over an impeachment article against President Trump in the House.
McConnell press secretary Doug Andres confirmed a report that the Kentucky Republican would not sanction such a move on Wednesday.
Without the emergency session, the Senate is due back in session on Jan. 19, so McConnell’s decision all but kills a Democrat-led effort to oust Trump from office before his term is up and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. A trial over the impeachment article is unlikely to conclude within such a short time.
Democrats have proposed holding the trial over Trump’s impeachment well-into Biden’s presidency. Michael Luttig, a former judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, slammed the idea on Tuesday, asserting that impeaching and removing a president after he left office is “unconstitutional.”
“It appears that even if the House of Representatives impeaches President Trump this week, the Senate trial on that impeachment will not begin until after Trump has left office and President-Elect Biden has become president on Jan. 20,” Luttig wrote in The Washington Post. “That Senate trial would be unconstitutional.”
Can confirm —> https://t.co/l2U1WlyQSF
— Doug Andres (@DougAndres) January 13, 2021
Once Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20, Congress loses its constitutional authority to continue impeachment proceedings against him — even if the House has already approved articles of impeachment.
Therefore, if the House of Representatives were to impeach the president before he leaves office, the Senate could not thereafter convict the former president and disqualify him under the Constitution from future public office.
The reason for this is found in the Constitution itself. Trump would no longer be incumbent in the Office of the President at the time of the delayed Senate proceeding and would no longer be subject to “impeachment conviction” by the Senate, under the Constitution’s Impeachment Clauses. Which is to say that the Senate’s only power under the Constitution is to convict — or not — an incumbent president.
On Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a moderate, criticized the ongoing impeachment push and noted that any impeachment article passed in the House will likely not have enough support in the Senate.
“I think, my arithmetic, that means we have 19 Republicans. I don’t see that. And I think the House should know that also. We have been trying to send that message over. They know the votes aren’t there. You would think that they would do that,” Manchin said on Monday.
“I think this is so ill-advised for Joe Biden to be coming in, trying to heal the country, trying to be the president of all the people, when we’re going to be so divided and fighting again. Let the judicial system do its job,” he added. “And then, we’re a country of the rule of law. That’s the bedrock of who we are. Let that take its place. Let the investigations go on. Let the evidence come forth, and then we will go forward from there. There’s no rush to do this impeachment now. We can do it later if they think it’s necessary.”