Donald Trump Senate Trial Threatens Joe Biden's Push for Unity, Cabinet Appointments

President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial taking place as President-elect Joe Biden's White House tenure begins could draw focus away from some of the Democrat's priorities, as he looks to chart his and the nation's path forward.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated the Senate will likely not return before January 19. If the articles were sent from the House to the Senate on that day, the trial could begin January 20—coinciding with the date of Biden's inauguration.

McConnell noted the last three such trials lasted "83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively," meaning any such action would likely draw focus for at least several weeks at the start of Biden's term.

"Even for those who see the impeachment trial as warranted and necessary, there's no getting around the fact that, whenever it goes forward, it will dominate Senate proceedings, potentially delaying some of Biden's key priorities such as getting his Cabinet members confirmed, especially his national security team, and pushing through urgent policies and legislation regarding the pandemic, vaccine rollouts, and economic stimulus and recovery," Dr. Julie Norman, a lecturer in politics and international relations at University College London, told Newsweek.

Though there may be some methods to assuage these issues, Norman questioned how attempts to do so might work in practice.

"Biden is looking for pragmatic ways to get around this, such as bifurcating Senate business so that half of each day is spent on the impeachment, and half on other Senate business in line with his agenda, but it's yet to be determined if that is possible," Norman said.

"Another option is for the House to delay delivering the articles of impeachment to the Senate for several days or weeks, though many Democrats are pushing for a speedy trial, and it would most likely be disruptive at any point. It will also keep Trump's shadow hovering over the early days of Biden's presidency, despite the president-elect's aims of moving on and healing the country."

The discourse surrounding impeachment has already proved divisive, an issue which exacerbates the split in the nation Biden has spoken so often of wanting to heal.

On the trial coinciding with Biden's term beginning, Dr. Clodagh Harrington, an associate professor in American politics at De Montfort University, told Newsweek: "I believe this would pose a problem for Biden as it flies in the face of his Country Before Party approach. Clearly the ten Republicans that sided with the Democrat counterparts have moved the partisan dial, but not by a huge amount.

"An impending Trump impeachment trial would pose an enormous distraction from the Biden-Harris early days agenda, not least in terms of column inches and airwave time."

Biden has in recent days set out his stimulus plans, as he looks to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. He has also been steadily detailing his Cabinet nominees.

In terms of his desire to unify, polling has suggested the topic of impeachment in itself has split the nation—with a partisan divide over the matter, which some Republicans attempted to use an argument against it, and on feeling over attempts to oust Trump from his position prematurely following the events of January 6.

Newsweek has contacted the Biden transition team for comment.

joe biden speaking in delaware
resident-elect Joe Biden (R) speaks as U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (L) looks on he lays out his plan for combating the coronavirus and jump-starting the nation’s economy at the Queen theater January 14, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. He faces focus being drawn from his early days in office by a Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Alex Wong/Getty Images