U.S. House could send Trump impeachment charge to Senate as soon as Friday

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters the day after U.S. President Joe Biden's inauguration as the 46th president of the United States, during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives could as early as Friday send an impeachment charge accusing former President Donald Trump of inciting insurrection to the Senate, which must decide his fate and whether to block him from seeking office again.

A source familiar with the planning told Reuters the House could transmit the article of impeachment it approved last week as early as Friday and No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said he expected it "in a day or two."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to answer reporters' questions about when she would submit the charge, a necessary prelude to starting what would be the first Senate impeachment trial of a president after leaving office.

With new President Joe Biden pushing for quick Senate confirmation of Cabinet nominees and congressional approval of a coronavirus aid bill, Durbin told MSNBC on Thursday that Democrats will "have to decide how to work it into a very busy calendar, but it is a priority."

Durbin also told reporters in the Capitol that it was still not determined whether the Senate will hold a "full-blown trial with evidence and witnesses" or an "expedited" procedure.

In a House vote last week, the Republican Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. It charged him with inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a failed attempt to prevent Congress from formally certifying Biden's victory.

Democrats, who hold a House majority, narrowly took control of the Senate on Wednesday, but at least two-thirds of the 100-member body are required to convict Trump. A separate vote would be needed to block him from running for office again.

Under Senate rules, the trial would start a day after the House delivered the charge. It was unclear, however, whether a delay might be engineered, as some Democrats have hinted, to keep Biden's agenda and appointments on track.

Some Senate Republicans have argued that Congress should not put a former president on trial and that to do so will further divide the country.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, told Fox News: "I think President Trump continues to have that ability to lead this party and unite."

But Pelosi said: "I don't think it's very unifying to say, 'Oh, let's just forget it and move on.' That's not how you unify," she said.

(Reporting by Makini Brice, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)

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