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Politics

Senate will Convene the Mayorkas Impeachment Trial as Democrats Plot a Quick Dismissal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats could end the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday before arguments even begin.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to call votes to dismiss two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas after senators are sworn in as jurors midday, a move that could scuttle the trial and frustrate Republicans who have demanded that House prosecutors be able to make their case. Democrats appear to be united in opposition to moving forward.

The House narrowly voted in February to impeach Mayorkas for his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing in the two articles that he “willfully and systematically” refused to enforce immigration laws. House impeachment managers appointed by Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., delivered the charges to the Senate on Tuesday, standing in the well of the Senate and reading the them aloud to a captive audience of senators.

The entire process could be done within hours on Wednesday. Majority Democrats have said the GOP case against Mayorkas doesn’t rise to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” laid out as a bar for impeachment in the Constitution, and Schumer probably has enough votes to end the trial immediately if he decides to do so.

Schumer has said he wants to “address this issue as expeditiously as possible.”

“Impeachment should never be used to settle a policy disagreement,” Schumer said. “That would set a horrible precedent for the Congress.”

As Johnson signed the articles Monday in preparation for sending them across the Capitol, he said Schumer should convene a trial to “hold those who engineered this crisis to full account.”

Schumer “is the only impediment to delivering accountability for the American people,” Johnson said. “Pursuant to the Constitution, the House demands a trial.”

Once the senators are sworn in on Wednesday, the chamber will turn into the court of impeachment, with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington presiding. Murray is the president pro tempore of the Senate, or the senior-most member of the majority party who sits in for the vice president.

Exactly how Democrats will proceed on Wednesday is still unclear. Impeachment rules generally allow the Senate majority to decide how to manage the trial, and Schumer has not said exactly what he will do.

Senate Republicans are likely to try to raise a series of objections if Schumer calls votes to dismiss or table. But ultimately they cannot block a dismissal if majority Democrats have the votes.

In any case, Republicans would not be able to win the support of the two-thirds of the Senate that is needed to convict and remove Mayorkas from office — Democrats control the Senate, 51-49, and they appear to be united against the impeachment effort. Not one House Democrat supported it, either.

While most Republicans oppose quick dismissal, some have hinted they could vote with Democrats.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said last week he wasn’t sure what he would do if there were a move to dismiss the trial. “I think it’s virtually certain that there will not be the conviction of someone when the constitutional test has not been met,” he said.

At the same time, Romney said he wants to at least express his view that “Mayorkas has done a terrible job, but he’s following the direction of the president and has not met the constitutional test of a high crime or misdemeanor.”

The two articles argue that Mayorkas not only refused to enforce existing law but also breached the public trust by lying to Congress and saying the border was secure. The House vote was the first time in nearly 150 years a Cabinet secretary was impeached.

Since then, Johnson has delayed sending the articles to the Senate for weeks while both chambers finished work on government funding legislation and took a two-week recess. Johnson had said he would send them to the Senate last week, but he punted again after Senate Republicans said they wanted more time to prepare.

House impeachment managers previewed some of their arguments at a hearing with Mayorkas on Tuesday morning about President Joe Biden’s budget request for the department.

Tennessee Rep. Mark Green, the chairman of the House Homeland Security panel, told the secretary that he has a duty under the law to control and guard U.S. borders, and “during your three years as secretary, you have failed to fulfill this oath. You have refused to comply with the laws passed by Congress, and you have breached the public trust.”

Mayorkas defended the department’s efforts but said the nation’s immigration system is “fundamentally broken, and only Congress can fix it.”

Other impeachment managers are Michael McCaul of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ben Cline of Virginia, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Michael Guest of Mississippi, Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Laurel Lee of Florida, August Plfuger of Texas and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

At a press conference with a group of Republican senators after the articles were delivered, the impeachment managers demanded that Schumer move forward with their case.

“The voice of the people is very clear,” said McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Secure the border and impeach this man, this criminal.”

If Democrats are unable to dismiss or table the articles, they could follow the precedent of several impeachment trials for federal judges over the last century and hold a vote to create a trial committee that would investigate the charges. While there is sufficient precedent for this approach, Democrats may prefer to end the process completely, especially in a presidential election year when immigration and border security are top issues.

If the Senate were to proceed to an impeachment trial, it would be the third in five years. Democrats impeached President Donald Trump twice, once over his dealings with Ukraine and a second time in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Trump was acquitted by the Senate both times.

At a trial, senators would be forced to sit in their seats for the duration, maybe weeks, while the House impeachment managers and lawyers representing Mayorkas make their cases. The Senate is allowed to call witnesses, as well, if it so decides, and it can ask questions of both sides after the opening arguments are finished.

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By MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

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