WASHINGTON (AFP) – Donald Trump’s US Senate trial will begin in the second week of February, days after a fresh impeachment case against the former president is transmitted by the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday (Jan 22).
The newly announced schedule reflects a deal struck by Senate leaders to delay the substantive portion of the trial for two weeks so that the chamber may conduct other critical business including confirmation of President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominees.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump for a historic second time on Jan 13, just one week before he left office.
Schumer said the article of impeachment will be delivered and read out to the Senate on Monday at 7pm (Tuesday 8am Singapore time). The chamber’s 100 members will be sworn in as trial jurors the next day.
The House members assigned by Speaker Nancy Pelosi as impeachment managers, and members of Trump’s yet-to-be-named defense team, will then be given time to draft their legal briefs.
“Once the briefs are drafted, presentation by the parties will commence the week of February 8,” Schumer told colleagues on the Senate floor.
During the two-week interim, the Senate will act on Biden’s cabinet nominations “and the Covid relief bill which would provide relief for millions of American who are suffering during this pandemic”, Schumer added.
“Healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability, and that is what this trial will provide.”
Members will deliberate whether to convict Trump on what the US Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors”.
Trump was impeached on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in whipping up his supporters during a speech in Washington on Jan 6, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed Congress and threatened the lives of lawmakers and then-vice president Mike Pence.
Five people died in the violence, including a police officer.
The delay is the result of a deal Schumer struck with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell was a close congressional ally to Trump during his term, but he severely reprimanded the outgoing president for repeatedly seeking to overturn results of the election and for his incitement of protesters, and he left the door open for voting to convict Trump.
But he had sought a delay in the trial until February, arguing Trump needs time to hire lawyers and mount a defence.
On Friday, McConnell appeared to express regret for the Democrats’ speedy timetable.
“As I understand, it must be headed our way Monday. By Senate rules, if the article arrives, we have to start a trial right then,” he said on the floor.
But the Senate can agree to its own parameters of the trial timeline.
McConnell spoke of the “unprecedentedly fast” process in the House, where Trump was impeached in a single day.
“The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former president Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself,” he said.
Trump survived a first impeachment almost a year ago when the then Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of abusing his office to try to get dirt on Biden’s family before the presidential election.
With the Senate now comprised of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, and a two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump, at least 17 Republicans would have to vote against the former president to secure a conviction.
If that occurs, a subsequent vote would be held on whether to ban Trump from holding public office in the future.
A handful of Republicans have spoken out harshly against the president but it remains unclear if there would be enough GOP senators to vote for conviction.