By Arul Louis (IANS) The second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump will begin in the second week of February, although the process for it will start next week when the document with the charges will be received by the Senate and the Senators will be sworn in as jurors.
Senate Democratic Party Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule on Friday night after he reached a deal with the Republicans, who wanted a two-week delay in starting the trial to give Trump to prepare his defence.
He said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deliver the Articles of Impeachment, as the chargesheet voted by the House of Representatives is known, to the Senate on Monday and the Senators will be sworn-in as jurors the next day, but the trial itself will not start till two weeks later.
“Make no mistake, a trial will be held in the US Senate, and there will be a vote whether to convict the President,” Schumer said
Impeachment is the framing of charges against an official by the House, which then holds a judicial-style trial with senators as the jury. Two-thirds of them, 67 members in the 100-member Senate, will have to vote to convict.
Last year the Senate could not convict him at his first impeachment.
Trump has been accused of inciting an “insurrection” — the January 6 storming of the Capitol building while Congress was in the middle of counting the electoral college votes from the November 3, 2020, election and ratifying the election of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President.
The delay in starting the trial also helps Biden, who wants his cabinet and other senior officials confirmed by the Senate and move forward his agenda to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and its economic fallout.
“The more time we have to get up and running to meet these crises, the better,” he said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who made the deal for the delayed start of the trial, said that the impeachment was carried out in a “fast and minimal process” in the House.
“The sequel cannot be an insufficient senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself.”
By agreeing to the delay, Schumer has undercut this argument and short-circuited an excuse that some Republicans may want to use.
The Senate is divided equally with each party having 50 members and the Democrats will have to get 17 Republicans to defect on the issue to get the two-thirds majority to convict Trump.
McConnell and some Republicans have blamed Trump for the riot which left five people dead, including a police officer.
McConnell said in the Senate on Tuesday that “they were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence” to stop a function of the Congress.
But he has not indicated how he would vote on the impeachment.
There have also been questions whether a president who is out of office could be impeached.
Schumer said: “I’ve heard some of my Republican colleagues argue that his trial would be unconstitutional because Donald Trump is no longer in office. The argument has been roundly repudiated debunked by hundreds of constitutional scholars, left, right and centre, and defies basic common sense.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a predator could commit a heinous crime against our country, and then be permitted to resign, so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disbar them from future office.”
Trump’s famous last words before boarding the Air Force One for the final flight to Florida was, “we will be back in some form”.
The aim of the impeachment would be to block Trump from running for office again.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)