U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is examining a request from Republicans to postpone the start of former President Donald Trump’s trial until mid-February, a Schumer spokesman said Thursday.
Republicans said Trump needed time to prepare a defense against accusations of inciting rebellion at the US Capitol on January 6.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell requested the timeline after Democrats earlier in the day said the House of Representatives could send the indictment – passed last week in response to the deadly storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters – to the Senate as early as Friday.
Trump, a Republican, left office on Wednesday and flew to his Florida resort, hours before Democrat Joe Biden swore in.
McConnell said in a statement that he asked the Democrats to endure sending the indictment to the Senate until January 28 and then give Trump two weeks from that day to prepare a defense.
A spokesman for Schumer said the majority leader had received the proposal late on Thursday afternoon. “We will review it and discuss it,” McConnell said.
Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest possible margin and rely on Vice President Kamala Harris’ incessant vote in a 50-50 chamber and also need Republican cooperation to advance much of Biden’s agenda and confirm cabinet appointments.
Trump is the only US president to have been charged twice, and his Senate trial will be the only one that has ever taken place since a president has left office.
A source familiar with the planning told Reuters that the House could broadcast the article on the constitution as early as Friday, and Senate No. 2 Dick Durbin said he expected it “in a day or two.” In Trump’s first indictment, the Senate began the proceedings the day after the charges were sent from the House.
But Republican senators said they had discussed with McConnell the need to give Trump time for “due process,” as Senator John Cornyn put it.
“As far as I understand from today’s talks, it will not start until sometime in mid-February,” Republican Senator Mike Braun told reporters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to answer journalists’ questions earlier on Thursday about when she would file the charge. Durbin told reporters it was still not determined whether the Senate will hold a “full trial with evidence and witnesses” or an “expedited” procedure.
The House vote last week accused Trump of inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6, a failed attempt to prevent Congress from formally certifying Biden’s victory.
Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, narrowly took control of the Senate on Wednesday, but at least two-thirds of the 100-member body is required to convict Trump. A separate vote would be needed to prevent him from running again.
Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him in his trial against the Senate, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
While Republicans have called for a delay in letting Trump prepare his defense, some Democrats would also advocate a delay in helping keep Biden’s agenda and appointments on track.
Senator Chris Coons said Democrats would be open to considering a delay if progress is made in confirming Biden nominees.
“There are dozens of senior members of the administration who need to be confirmed and deserve to be confirmed,” Coons told CNN. “If we continue to make progress in that direction, I think this is a good step. If not, you will quickly find Democrats frustrated and insist that we move forward with the responsibility that could be delivered through a litigation. “