McConnell tells GOP senators to expect impeachment trial next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) told Republicans during a closed-door lunch on Thursday to expect President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s impeachment trial to start next week. 

Three GOP senators said the Republican leader warned lawmakers during the caucus meeting that they should not expect to be able to go home next weekend, indicating that the long-delayed trial will be underway. 

Proceedings have been held up while Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit MORE (D-Calif.) has refused to send over the House-passed articles of impeachment, but she told reporters earlier Thursday that she would “soon” do so.

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"We thought, we as the body, that the Speaker will ... shortly send that over, so [he] said next weekend don't go anywhere," said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (R-Ala.), characterizing McConnell's message as a heads-up that the Senate would be in session. 

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute McConnell tees up showdown on unemployment benefits Senate panel scraps confirmation hearing for controversial Pentagon nominee at last minute MORE (R-N.D.) added that McConnell told senators that the two articles would be sent over "soon," expecting them in the "next day or two." 

"There's no reason for us to stay this weekend, but don't expect to be home next weekend was the basic message," Cramer added after the closed-door caucus lunch. 

Once Pelosi sends the articles over, the trial would start the next day at 1 p.m. The Senate would then be in session for six days a week, excluding Sunday, until they wrap what is expected to be a weeks-long process. The six-day work week will be a shift for senators, who normally come into town on Monday night and leave by Thursday afternoon. 

"I'm not holding them indefinitely," Pelosi had said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "I'll send them over when I'm ready, and that will probably be soon."

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Senators have largely been left in the dark about when to expect Pelosi to send over the two articles, which passed the chamber largely along party lines last month. 

Asked about McConnell's comments, a spokesman said the GOP leader's guidance was not based on conversations with Pelosi. 

McConnell's remarks to senators come after Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSeveral GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (R-S.C.) raised eyebrows by telling Fox News’s Sean HannitySean Patrick HannitySunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' MORE, without explanation, that he expects the trial to start next week. 

"Hats off to Mitch McConnell for playing this very well. We'll take the trial up next week," Graham said on Wednesday night.

Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (Mo.) and John CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (Texas), members of GOP leadership, both confirmed McConnell's comments during the closed-door caucus but cautioned that they had also expected the standoff between Pelosi and McConnell to already be over. 

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"It's an assumption of what we believe will happen," Blunt said. "I believe we're believing, as we believed last weekend, that these documents are about to come over." 

The timing of the trial, just weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses, could pose a challenge for the five senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination: Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response MORE (D-Colo.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.Y.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report MORE (D-Mass.). 

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said this week that the party could reschedule the year's first primary debate — currently set for Tuesday — if it conflicts with trial proceedings.

Speculation about when the articles will come over follows McConnell's announcement earlier this week that he has the 51 votes to set up the Senate impeachment rules without Democratic support and punt a decision on documents and witnesses until mid-trial. 

Pelosi reiterated on Thursday that she wants more details on the parameters of an impeachment trial from McConnell.

"We need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?" Pelosi said.