Senate Republican Leaders Issue Memo Saying They Can’t Stymie Donald Trump’s Senate Trial If He’s Impeached

'If it [impeachment] were to happen, the Senate has no choice,' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks up to speak to the media after attending the Republican weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

'If it [impeachment] were to happen, the Senate has no choice,' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The Senate’s Republican leadership issued a memo on Saturday reminding its members that they cannot attempt to thwart Donald Trump’s trial in the Senate, which is required by the Constitution if he’s impeached, HuffPost reports. The trial must happen, the memo says.

Impeachment is just the first part of a two-part process. Once the House of Representatives passes Articles of Impeachment, by a simple majority vote, the president is then said to have been impeached. The Constitution then requires a second part of the process: a trial in the Senate. Following his trial, the Senate will hold a vote. It would take a two-thirds majority vote to remove the president from office.

As of this writing, it has never happened. Two presidents have been impeached — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — but neither man was removed from office following their trial in the Senate, and both served the remainder of their terms.

If Donald Trump becomes the third president to be impeached, he, too, would have a trial in the Senate.

And in a memo, the Senate’s Republican leadership explained to its members that they cannot attempt to stymie the process, whether through simply refusing to schedule a vote or through even cruder means, such as locking the doors.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a reception to honor Hispanic Heritage Month, in The East Room at the White House on September 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
  Mark Wilson / Getty Images

“There is no way we could somehow bar the doors and prevent the managers from presenting the articles to the Senate. The rules of impeachment are clear on this point,” the memo reads.

One option that does appear to remain on the table, however, is this: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could schedule a vote on a motion to dismiss before Trump even goes to trial, effectively stopping Trump’s trial before it begins. Whether or not he intends to play that card remains unclear, but based on previous statements he’s made, it seems unlikely.


Back in March, McConnell told NPR News that if Trump is impeached, there would be a Senate trial, no two ways about it.

“If it [impeachment] were to happen, the Senate has no choice. If the House were to act, the Senate immediately goes into a trial,” he said.

Even if the Senate does not try to thwart Trump’s trial before it happens, the likelihood of him being removed from office appears slim to nil. It would require 67 votes, and Republicans hold 53 seats, with the other 47 belonging to 45 Democrats and two Independents, who both lean left. Even if every Democrat and both Independents voted to remove Trump from office, the process would still require 20 Republican votes.