Trump impeachment trial to begin next week

(BBC) – Republicans in the US Senate are asking Democrats to delay the start of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial until February.

They argue that this will give Mr Trump time to prepare a defence.

The House of Representatives last week charged Mr Trump with inciting a deadly riot at the US Capitol, paving the way for a Senate trial. If convicted, he could be barred from future office.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is reviewing the Republicans’ request.

Some Democrats back a delay, saying it will give the Senate more time to confirm cabinet nominees, but others say a speedy trial is necessary to allow the country to move on.

Mr Trump flew to Florida as his term ended on Wednesday, skipping his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Mr Trump’s actions ahead of the 6 January riot are at the heart of the case. The then-president told protesters near the White House to “peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard as they prepared to march towards the US Capitol building. He also told them to “fight like hell”.

A week later, Mr Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice.

His trial in the Senate will be the only one ever to have taken place after a president has left office.

Impeachment: The basics

  • What is impeachment? Impeachment is when a sitting president is charged with crimes. In this case, former President Trump is accused of having incited insurrection
  • What has already happened? The House of Representatives voted to impeach Mr Trump for a second time on 13 January, shifting the process to the Senate for a trial – but that trial could not be carried out before he left office on 20 January
  • So what does it mean? A trial can still happen although Mr Trump’s term has ended, and senators can vote to bar him from holding public office again

What are Republicans asking for?

On a call to his fellow Republican senators on Thursday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he had asked House Democrats to hold off sending the single impeachment article to the Senate until 28 January – the move that would kick-start the trial’s first phase.

Under this timetable, Mr Trump would then have two weeks – until 11 February – to submit his pre-trial defence. Arguments would be expected to begin in mid-February.

Republicans, who as of Wednesday no longer control the Senate, need the new Democratic majority leader, Mr Schumer, to agree to the idea.

Mr McConnell said in a statement: “Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas told Reuters that he and fellow Republicans had been discussing the need to allow Mr Trump “due process”.

Ten House Republicans sided with Democrats in impeaching the outgoing president on 14 January.

Even though Democrats now narrowly control the Senate, they would need the support of at least 17 Republicans in order to convict Mr Trump, because a two-thirds vote is required.

A handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to conviction, but most have either cast doubt on the legality of trying a president after he has left office, or said the process would be too divisive.

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