Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday the Senate “would have no choice but to” take up impeachment if the House passed articles charging the president with crimes, according to the chamber’s rules.
“The Senate impeachment rules are very clear,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, in an interview with CNBC. “The Senate would have to take up an impeachment resolution if it came over from the House.”
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, asserting that Trump had used his office for personal political gain in July, when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
A whistleblower’s complaint and a rough transcript of the Trump-Zelensky conversation publicly released last week by the Trump administration have become the basis of the House Democrats’ investigation, which they hope to complete this fall. The Democratic-controlled House needs only a simple majority to pass articles of impeachment, while two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate is required to convict and remove the President from office.
On Saturday, a Senate GOP leadership aide told reporters that “there is no way we could somehow bar the doors and prevent the managers from presenting the articles” to the Senate. On CNBC Monday, McConnell made clear that the Senate must consider articles of impeachment. But he added that the amount of time spent on a trial is “a whole different matter.”
Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have charged that Joe Biden urged Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who had previously investigated the owner of an energy company that employed Hunter, and that Joe Biden had threatened to deny the country a $1 billion loan guarantee if it did not. The then-vice president, along with European governments and international institutions, did push for the dismissal of the Ukrainian general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, charging he was not doing enough to counter corruption in the country.
On July 25, Trump reminded Zelensky that the United States had been “very, very good” to Ukraine and asked him to work with Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the Bidens, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House. A person familiar with Barr’s reaction said he was surprised and angry that his name came up on the call. Barr has never discussed Ukraine with Giuliani, according to the Justice Department.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” said Trump on the call. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. … It sounds horrible to me.”
Not long before the call, Trump held up nearly $400 million in US aid to Ukraine. The money was released in September amid bipartisan pressure, including from McConnell, who noted on Monday that he had called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper “wondering what the hang-up was.”
“I was curious as to what the delay was,” McConnell said. “Fortunately the aid was released and I think it was an important step for our Ukrainian friends.”
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Evan Perez contributed to this report.