U.S. Senate leaders agreed to delay ex-president Donald Trump’s contentious impeachment trial by two weeks, and to concentrate on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and Cabinet nominees.
The timeline was a compromise after the Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell had asked the Democratic-led House to delay sending the charge until next Thursday, and called on Schumer to postpone the trial until mid-February to give Trump more time to prepare a defense.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the trial is set to begin during the week of Monday Feb. 8, an arrangement praised by Mitch McConnell.
The Lower House will formally deliver to the Senate on Monday the impeachment charge accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection, a move that ordinarily would have triggered the beginning of the trial within a day.
The charge stems from Trump’s incendiary speech to supporters before they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a rampage that delayed the formal congressional certification of Biden’s election victory and left five people dead, including a police officer.
Schumer said the new timeline will allow the Senate to move quickly on key Biden appointees and other tasks while giving House lawmakers who will prosecute the case and Trump’s team more time to prepare for the trial.
“During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as Cabinet nominations and the COVID relief bill which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
A spokesman for McConnell, said the senator was pleased Democrats had given Trump’s defense more time, and laid out a timeline that could have the trial begin as soon as Feb. 9.
Under the timeline, House impeachment managers will file their pre-trial brief and Trump’s defense team will file an answer to the impeachment charge on Feb. 2, and each side will respond to those filings on Feb. 8.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters earlier in the day that the Senate should be able to move forward with Biden’s agenda, beginning with his call for US$ 1.9 trillion of fresh COVID-19 assistance for Americans and the U.S. economy.
“What cannot be delayed through this process is his proposal to get relief to the American people at this time of crisis,” Psaki said.