McConnell tells GOP senators to expect impeachment trial next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation COVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (R-Ky.) told Republicans during a closed-door lunch on Thursday to expect President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America 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 PelosiMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 ShelbyTop Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump McConnell, GOP senators support exempting VA health funds from budget caps MORE (R-Ala.), characterizing McConnell's message as a heads-up that the Senate would be in session. 

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Trump cites 'Obamagate' in urging GOP to get 'tough' on Democrats Obama tweets 'vote' after Trump promotes 'Obamagate' 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."

ADVERTISEMENT

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 GrahamSenate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Comey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe Schumer: GOP should 'stop sitting on their hands' on coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.C.) raised eyebrows by telling Fox News’s Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityHannity scolds Ozarks partygoers: 'Could be a disaster' for vulnerable Americans Trump lashes out at Fox News after poll shows him trailing Biden Trump complains Fox News is 'doing nothing to help' him get reelected 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 BluntWashington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (Mo.) and John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 BennetSenate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Fight emerges over unemployment benefits in next relief bill MORE (D-Colo.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff MORE (D-N.Y.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharPolice killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick Cortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick 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.