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House Democratic leaders grapple with ramification of impeachment on Biden’s opening days

Speaker Nancy Pelosi held the call with her leadership team as the Democratic caucus has moved into an almost completely unified position in support of impeaching President Donald Trump for incitement of the insurrection that overran the US Capitol on January 6. But the timeline — Trump has only 10 days in office — and the repercussions of a Senate trial on the opening days and weeks of President-elect Joe Biden’s term have started to weigh heavily on conversations.
Politico first reported the details of the House Democratic leadership call.

Pelosi, in a letter to colleagues sent Saturday night, made clear action would be taken.

“When we take our oath of office, we promise to the American people our seriousness in protecting our democracy,” Pelosi wrote. “For that reason, it is absolutely essential that those who perpetrated the assault on our democracy be held accountable. There must be a recognition that this desecration was instigated by the President.”

Pelosi also made clear members should be prepared to return to Washington this coming week to take action.

The level of unity in the caucus has been driven by the visceral reality of January 6, a day that led to the deaths of five people and sent lawmakers — for a time cornered inside the House chamber as rioters who chanted for violence banged on the doors outside — scattered into undisclosed locations under guard from heavily armed law enforcement officers.

The action Democrats choose to pursue, however, remains an open question. House Democrats plan to introduce an impeachment resolution on January 11 drafted by Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California. It already has nearly 190 co-sponsors.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear in a memo circulated last week that even if the House moved in the coming days to impeach Trump, the Senate would not return to session before January 19. That would place the start of the trial on January 20 — the date of Biden’s inauguration.

From there on out, the Senate is rendered mostly incapable of any action beside the trial until its completion, as was apparent during the first Trump impeachment trial.

House Democratic leaders have begun to factor in what that could mean for Biden’s opening days as president — from the confirmation of his Cabinet nominees to the aggressive stimulus proposal he plans to push from his first moments in office. Democrats on the leadership call Saturday night brought this issues up specifically, as they attempted to navigate the complicated dynamics.

Pelosi, in her letter to colleagues, made clear the path forward is still very much a work in progress.

“We will be proceeding with meetings with Members and Constitutional experts and others,” she wrote. “I continue to welcome your comments.”

The California Democrat has not only called on Trump to resign, but also urged Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the President from office.

But Pelosi told colleagues on a call Friday impeachment was a real option if that does not happen, noting there was more backing within the House Democratic caucus for impeaching Trump now than there was in 2019 when Trump was first impeached.

“The President chose to be an insurrectionist,” Pelosi said, according to one source. “How we go forward is a subject for this caucus.”

House Democrats plan to introduce their impeachment resolution on Monday, when the House next comes into session. The latest draft of the impeachment resolution, obtained by CNN, includes one article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection.”

The House Rules Committee is expected to meet Monday or Tuesday to approve a rule that would govern floor debate for an impeachment resolution and a bill drafted by Raskin to create a new mechanism to invoke the 25th Amendment.

This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.

CNN’s Lauren Fox, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.


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