Biden ‘will not spend too much time’ watching impeachment trial but finds Trump behavior ‘erratic,’ Psaki says
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that President Biden “will not spend too much time” watching former President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, maintaining that he will leave the “pace, process and mechanics” of the proceedings up to the Senate.
Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial is set to begin on Tuesday, after the House on Jan. 13 voted for a second time to impeach him—this time on charges of inciting an insurrection ahead of and during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Biden and the White House have been pressed repeatedly for comments on impeachment, but Psaki, during the White House press briefing on Monday, said the president will be “pretty busy” and has a “full schedule this week.”
“He will not spend too much time watching the proceedings at any time over the course of this week,” Psaki said, adding that the president has been and will continue to be in “close touch” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and “a range of officials on the Hill.”
“He will leave the pace, process and mechanics of the impeachment proceedings up to members of Congress,” Psaki said.
Psaki was pressed by a number of reporters to go further in commenting on the impeachment—even after Biden himself Monday morning was asked whether Trump should lose his political rights.
“Oh, I don’t — look, he got an offer to come and testify, he decided not to,” Biden said Monday morning. “Let the Senate work that out. Thank you.”
Psaki said Biden is “no longer in the Senate,” and “will leave it to his former colleagues in the Senate and members of Congress to determine the path forward.”
Meanwhile, Psaki was asked whether Biden felt that Trump should be eligible to still receive intelligence briefings — after Biden told CBS he saw “no need” for them. Psaki said she was not “aware” of any requests from Trump to receive an intelligence briefing, but said that Biden would leave that decision up to intelligence officials.
Psaki did say, though, that Biden feels Trump’s behavior is “erratic.”
“He ran against him because he felt he was unfit for office, and he defeated him, and that’s why President Trump is no longer president of the United States,” Psaki said. “I think his views of President Trump are pretty clear.”
Trump’s impeachment trial is set to begin Tuesday. It is unclear, at this point, how long it will last.
Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, D-Md., last week requested that Trump testify before or during the impeachment trial.
“The president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News last week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have yet to announce an agreement on how the hearings for the trial itself will work. The only thing that is currently known is that the affair will gavel-in at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will oversee the proceedings.
What’s unknown is how long the trial will last, if there will be witnesses, how the trial will be structured as it’s happening, and if the Senate will split its time between tackling legislation and nominations and holding the trial, or if it will only take care of trial proceedings.
A potential agreement for a trial framework is being shopped around to senators to see if they could agree on it. The trial would start with four hours of debate on whether the trial is constitutional, then a vote on whether to proceed. There also could be debate and a vote on if impeachment managers can call witnesses, which would be subject to a simple majority threshold.
And the trial framework would be modified from six days per week with Sundays off to six days per week with Saturdays off. Trump lawyer David Schoen observes the Jewish Sabbath, so he’s requested that the trial stop by 5 p.m. Friday and resume Sunday.
Also happening Monday, the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team will submit a second round of briefs to the Senate, as part of a pretrial deal struck between McConnell and Schumer. Those briefs should provide a further window into how each side will present its argument after they submitted a round of briefs last week.