Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday told Republican senators that he expects Speaker Nancy Pelosi to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as Friday, setting up an impeachment trial that begins early next week.
While senators and aides cautioned that McConnell does not have inside intelligence, the remarks serve as key scheduling advice for senators. Most Republicans are now gearing up for the relentless pace of the impeachment trial to start on Monday or Tuesday.
“At lunch, we all heard that. And he says: ‘That’s my best guess,’” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “Which means that we’d get started next week.”
Most senators immediately left the chamber after voting on Thursday afternoon, a signal that the trial will not start until after the weekend. McConnell also discussed the contours of the trial with President Donald Trump on Wednesday during a meeting at the White House that was first reported by CNN.
“He expects them at some point here very soon,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “The sense is that even if they got here at this very moment right now, there’s still a process involved to notify the White House and chief justice and turning it all around … I’m not sure he has any specific knowledge, but the gut feeling is that it will come over there tomorrow and set up for a Monday start.”
“Mitch said, ‘we still expect … the articles to come over soon. And, you know, maybe plan not to go home next Thursday,'” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), referring to the Senate’s regular dismissal date.
Pelosi on Thursday told reporters that she would transmit the articles “soon” but wouldn’t provide a timeline.
McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to begin the trial with arguments from Trump’s counsel and the House impeachment managers, and make decisions on witnesses later. Democrats have sought to get an agreement on new evidence before the trial begins, but McConnell spurned them and locked up the votes to pass a trial blueprint without Democratic support.
Democrats can still force those votes on key administration witnesses and documents, but Republicans are likely to retaliate with votes to subpoena Hunter Biden and others.
Senate Republicans had been planning on Thursday to discuss Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) resolution to change the Senate rules and dismiss Trump’s impeachment if the articles aren’t transmitted, a response to the weeks-long delay since the House impeached Trump in December. But that discussion was punted given the imminent feeling in the conference about the transmission of the articles and impeachment managers.
McConnell is also signing onto Hawley’s resolution. Though the Senate won’t act to change its rules in the coming days, it’s a response to speed up future potential impeachments and a similar rift occurring between a speaker and Senate majority leader, a source familiar with his plans said.
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.