McConnell says Trump impeachment trial 'would not lead to a removal' if held today

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threw cold water on the impeachment process Tuesday, telling reporters that if a hypothetical Senate trial were held today, the upper chamber would not vote to convict President Donald Trump.

"I will say, I'm pretty sure how it's likely to end: If it were today I don't think there's any question it would not lead to a removal," the Kentucky Republican said. "So the question is how long does the Senate want to take? How long do the presidential candidates want to be here on the floor of the Senate instead of in Iowa and New Hampshire?" (Six senators, who would serve as jurors, are running in the Democratic presidential primary.)

"And all of these other related issues that may be going on at the same time, it's very difficult to ascertain how long this takes," McConnell added. "I'd be surprised if it didn't end the way the two previous ones did with the president not being removed from office."

A national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week found that a near-majority of Americans support Trump's impeachment and removal from office while 46 percent said they do not. But nine in 10 Republicans oppose the president's removal from office, which might help him in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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Last week, the House adopted a resolution in a 232-196 largely party-line vote, formalizing the rules and procedure for the impeachment inquiry, which ushered in the public phase of the probe. No president has ever been removed from the White House through impeachment, but President Richard Nixon resigned rather face the likelihood of his removal in the Senate.

McConnell, who previously said he did not want to prejudge the process, also told reporters Tuesday that discussions on formalizing the process with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have not begun, but noted that “if the House acts, I think the place to start would take a look at what the agreement was 20 years ago [in the Clinton impeachment trial] as a starting place and discuss how we may be able to agree to handle the process.”

The Constitution requires that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial.

"How long it goes on really depends on how long the Senate wants to spend on it," McConnell said.