Although Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has privately told advisers that he approves of the impeachment drive and believes it could help his party purge itself of Mr. Trump, he refused to begin the proceedings this week while he is still in charge. That means the trial will not effectively start until after Mr. Biden is sworn in on Wednesday, officials involved in the planning said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has discretion over when to transmit the article of impeachment, formally initiating the Senate proceeding. Some Democrats said she might wait until Monday, Jan. 25, or longer to allow more time for the Senate to put in place Mr. Biden’s national security team to respond to continued threats of violence from pro-Trump extremists.
With Republicans fractured after the president’s bid to overturn the election inspired a rampage, many of them were trying to gauge the dynamics of a vote to convict Mr. Trump. Doing so would open the door to disqualifying him from holding office in the future.
A cautionary tale was playing out in the House, where a faction of Mr. Trump’s most ardent allies was working to topple Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, from her leadership post. Ms. Cheney had joined nine other members of the party who voted with Democrats to charge the president with “incitement of insurrection.”
Most Senate Republicans stayed publicly silent about their positions. But Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and one of the president’s leading critics, signaled on Thursday that she was among a small group in her party so far considering convicting Mr. Trump. In a stinging statement, she called his actions “unlawful,” saying they warranted consequences, and added that the House had acted appropriately in impeaching him.