U.S. House Speaker Pelosi won't say when Trump impeachment trial will start

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday sidestepped a question about when President Donald Trump would face his second impeachment trial, on a charge of inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol.

The House on Wednesday approved one article of impeachment, similar to an indictment, levying that charge against Trump. But Pelosi would not say when she would send the article to the Senate, the step that triggers a trial.

“You’ll be the first to know,” Pelosi told reporters.

Congressional Democrats have been grappling with how to balance the impeachment of Trump — which will continue after his term ends and could lead to him being banned from running office again — with other Senate priorities including confirming Cabinet nominees and other priorities of President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Wednesday.

Pelosi told reporters that lawmakers are working on proposed new legislation to deliver economic relief to Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic following a $1.9 trillion package laid out by Biden.

“This is a matter of complete urgency,” Pelosi said of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution that is part of Biden’s proposal. “Now we have to move on and do it in the right way, and that will require resources, which will require legislation.”

The Democratic impeachment managers are “solemnly and prayerfully preparing” for a trial, Pelosi told reporters.

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The Democratic-led House voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach Trump one week after his supporters rampaged in the Capitol following a speech in which the outgoing Republican president urged them to fight Democrat Biden’s Nov. 3 election victory.

Trump falsely claims he lost because of widespread voting fraud. He will likely be the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in supporting impeachment, while others argued Trump’s remarks were protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which defends free speech.

According to Senate rules, the trial would start the day after the charge is sent over by the House. The last time the House voted to impeach Trump, in December 2019, Pelosi did not transmit the charges to the Senate for weeks.

The earlier charges related to abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter. The Senate in February 2020 voted to acquit Trump, keeping him in office.

The Senate is scheduled to return to Washington on Tuesday, the day before Biden’s inauguration.

A presidential inauguration traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Washington, but the ceremonies have been scaled back dramatically because of the COVID-19 pandemic, even before last week’s riot.

Now Washington is wrapped in a security blanket with thousands of troops and law enforcement officers on duty ahead of the inauguration. Trump initially praised his supporters after the storming of the Capitol but later condemned the violence.

Meanwhile, Trump plans to leave Washington on Wednesday morning, a source familiar with the matter said. He will then go to his club in Palm Beach, Florida, the source said. Trump had already said he would not attend the inauguration.

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