McConnell says Senate would have to hold a trial if House impeaches Trump

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By Dareh Gregorian  with NBC News Politics
Senate Lawmakers Speak To The Press After Their Weekly Policy Luncheons
"I would have no choice but to take it up," Mitch McConnell said of a trial in the Senate if the House approved articles of impeachment.   -   Copyright  Mark Wilson Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that the Senate would have to hold a trial if the House passes articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

"I would have no choice but to take it up," the Kentucky Republicantold CNBC.

"How long you are on it is a different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment."

McConnell's comment to CNBC echoed one he made to National Public Radio in March, when he said,"If the House were to act, the Senate immediately goes into a trial." But when asked the same question last week, McConnell told reporters he wouldn't engage in "hypotheticals."

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McConnell was in the Senate the last time there was an impeachment trial, for President Bill Clinton in 1999. He voted to convict Clinton on articles of impeachment for lying under oath and obstruction of justice, but Clinton was acquitted.

While the Constitutionsays the Senate "shall have the sole power to try all impeachments," some legal experts told The Washington Post on Friday that McConnell could try to sidestep a trial.

McConnell has prided himself on stopping Democratic efforts in Congress. He referred to himselfas "the grim reaper" for his ability to kill Democratic bills from the House and withheld a vote on then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.

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Asked if he would try to change the rules on impeachment, McConnell told CNBC: "No. The Senate impeachment rules are very clear."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced last week that she was launching a formal impeachment inquiryinto the president after Trump acknowledged he'd asked the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

The timeline for the inquiry is unclear, but Pelosi said Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that she wants to move "expeditiously." That likely means the inquiry will go on for weeks and not months, sources have told NBC News.