Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he would have “no choice” but to take up articles of impeachment against President Trump should the House of Representatives approve them following their formal impeachment inquiry.
In an interview with CNBC, McConnell, R-Ky., was asked whether he would bring articles of impeachment for a vote should they reach the Senate.
“I would have no choice but to take it up,” he said. “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on [the] Senate rule on impeachment.”
The comments affirm that McConnell, even as he blasts Democratic tactics from the floor, would not let impeachment articles languish. Depending on how the House proceeds, this raises the possibility of a Senate trial just as the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses are set to begin in early 2020 -- though Trump still enjoys broad support among Senate Republicans and would have to suffer enormous party defections to actually be ousted from office.
Earlier this year, McConnell gave a similar assessment to NPR, saying that if impeachment “were to happen, the Senate has no choice. If the House were to act, the Senate immediately goes to trial.”
But last week, before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the formal impeachment inquiry in the House, McConnell said he was “not going to address all of these…hypotheticals.”
“I think all of that is premature,” he said.
McConnell has now cleared the air on the heels of Pelosi's launch of an impeachment inquiry.
The timetable for House action remains unclear, though Democrat-led committees are moving quickly to investigate allegations, first raised in a whistleblower complaint, that Trump improperly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. A transcript of that call shows Trump sought an investigation, but he denies wrongdoing and denies tying the request to U.S. aid.
House Democrats, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have vowed to work expeditiously on the inquiry, with some reports indicating that Democrats could even be prepared to introduce formal articles of impeachment against Trump later this fall.
Should the House introduce articles of impeachment, all that is needed to impeach Trump is a simple majority vote by those lawmakers present and voting. But at that point, removal from the Oval Office is hardly a certainty. The Senate, as McConnell indicated, would have to hold a "trial."
During such a trial, House lawmakers serve as so-called “managers,” who basically fill the role that prosecutors would in a criminal trial and present evidence against the president. The president would be represented by his own counsel.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial and the Senate acts as the jury – listening to the arguments from both sides before deliberating and voting on whether to remove the president from office.
But it takes a two-thirds vote to convict a president and remove him from office.
While some Senate Republicans have voiced concerns about Trump's actions, impeachment does not at this stage appear to have enough support in the Senate to threaten Trump in the long run. Most GOP senators have stopped short of condemning the president for his controversial phone call, while others have outright defended him.
“This seems to me like a political setup,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “It’s all hearsay. You can’t get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay. The whistleblower didn’t hear the phone call.”
The whistleblower acknowledged that the complaint was based on second-hand information.
Last week, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire called the accusations in the complaint “hearsay.”
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report.