The trial of Donald Trump will be the Senate's first priority in January if the US president is impeached as expected next week, the top Republican in Congress said on Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee was set to meet beginning Wednesday evening to debate two articles of impeachment that accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his dealings with Ukraine.
The panel will likely vote to approve the charges on Thursday.
That would send the articles to a full vote by the Democratic-led House of Representatives as early as next week on whether to impeach a US president for only the third time in US history.
The case would then shift to the Senate in the new year for a trial to decide whether Trump is removed from office.
"A Senate trial will have to be our first item of business in January," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues on the floor.
Conviction appears unlikely given that Republicans hold a majority in the chamber and the threshold for conviction is high, at two thirds of members.
McConnell savaged Democrats who he says have been desperate to impeach Trump from the day he took the oath of office, and who have rushed the process "based on the least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history."
"If the House continues down this destructive road and sends us articles of impeachment, the Senate will take them up in the new year and proceed to a fair trial."
In multiple public House hearings, Democrats have argued that Trump abused the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference in 2020's US elections, and that he would remain a "clear and present danger" to national security if not removed from office.
Trump has reportedly told advisers he wants to make a dramatic show of the trial, and that calling witnesses to appear in person in the Senate could help him damage Democrats ahead of the November election.
McConnell told reporters Tuesday that no decision on whether to hear from witnesses live, rather than in taped depositions, would be made until after the trial's opening arguments.