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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Trump impeachment goes to Senate, triggering trial of ex-president

The US House of Representatives has delivered to the Senate a charge accusing Donald Trump of inciting the storming of the Capitol, setting in motion the first impeachment trial of a former president.

The US House of Representatives on Monday presented to the Senate a single article of impeachment accusing former President Donald Trump of inciting insurrection in a speech to his supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial.

In a solemn procession, the nine House impeachment managers silently walked the article through the same ornate halls of Congress overrun by Trump supporters on January 6 and delivered it to the Senate.

Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland then read out the charge against Trump on the Senate floor, where the former president continues to enjoy significant support from Republican senators.

Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump on January 13. Senate Democrats will need the support of 17 Republicans to convict him in the Senate, a steep climb given the continued allegiance to Trump among the Republican Party’s conservative base of voters.

Chief justice won’t preside
On Monday, it was learned that Chief Justice John Roberts is not expected to preside at the trial, as he did during Trump’s first impeachment. The shift is said to be in keeping with protocol because Trump is no longer in office.

Instead, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, who serves in the largely ceremonial role of Senate president pro-tempore, is set to preside.

Chief Justice John Roberts presided over the impeachment trial when the Senate, then controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, acquitted Trump in February 2020 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress arising from his request that Ukraine investigate President Joe Biden and his son.

Leahy will still be able to vote in the trial, an aide said, noting that senators still vote on all matters when presiding over the chamber.

Some Republicans questioned the arrangement. “How does a Senator preside, like a judge, and serve as juror too?” Republican Senator John Cornyn asked on Twitter.

Conviction unlikely?
A number of Republican lawmakers have objected to the impeachment, some arguing that it would be a violation of the constitution to hold a trial now because Trump no longer serves as president.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, rejected that argument on Monday. “The theory that the Senate can’t try former officials would amount to a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for any president,” Schumer told the Senate.

Arguments in the Senate trial will begin the week of February 8, and the case against Trump, the first former president to face impeachment trial, will likely test the Republican Party.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other lawmakers in the party have condemned the Capitol violence and some have accused Trump of inciting it. But even though a few Republican senators may vote to convict Trump, it seems unlikely at least 17 of them will do so.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday that while the process “has to happen,” he did not believe there would ultimately be enough votes to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, CNN reported.

Biden said he did not think 17 Republican senators would vote to convict Trump, the number necessary if all 50 Democrats vote for a conviction, in what CNN described as a brief one-on-one interview in the West Wing.

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