Donald Trump impeachment: House delivers article to Senate as Biden says conviction unlikely

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Rozina Sabur
·3 min read
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Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson and acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Blodgett lead the impeachment managers through Statuary Hall in the Capitol - AP
Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson and acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Blodgett lead the impeachment managers through Statuary Hall in the Capitol - AP

Democrats in the House of Representatives delivered an article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday night, formally triggering the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.

The article accuses Mr Trump of "incitement of insurrection" over the deadly Capitol riots on January 6.

Shortly before the breach of the Capitol, Mr Trump told thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to "fight like hell" against the election results that Congress was certifying.

A mob marched down to the Capitol and rushed in, interrupting the count. Five people died in the unrest, including four of Mr Trump's supporters and a Capitol Police officer.

The impeachment article was delivered in person by nine House impeachment managers to the Senate in a formal ceremony shortly after 7 pm (midnight GMT).

The move by Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, sets on course the second Senate trial for Mr Trump, the only US president to be impeached twice, and the first to face trial after leaving office.

Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin, one of the authors of the impeachment article, read the charges on the Senate floor.

"[He] has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law," he told the chamber.

"Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."

The Senate trial is to begin the week of February 8, to allow the chamber to focus on confirming Joe Biden's Cabinet and to give Mr Trump's lawyers time to prepare their defence.

Offering his opinion on the proceedings for the first time since he became president, Mr Biden admitted that is was doubtful enough Republicans would join Democrats to convict his predecessor.

"The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn't changed that much," he told CNN.

However, Mr Biden said he believed the trial "had to happen" and there would be "a worse effect if it didn't happen", in comments that will please Democrats in Congress.

The trial will be carried out with Democratic impeachment managers from the House serving as prosecutors and Mr Trump's lawyers delivering his defence.

Senators will serve as the jury and will vote to convict or acquit Mr Trump at the trial's conclusion.

The US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Mr Trump’s previous Senate trial – which ended with his acquittal – but this time the Senate president pro tempore will president over the proceedings.

The president pro tempore is the senior senator of the party with the majority in the Senate, currently the Democrats. Patrick Leahy, 80, who was elected to the Senate in 1974, holds the position.

If Mr Trump is convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding public office again, effectively ruling out a second run for the White House.

Facing his second impeachment trial in two years, Mr Trump has appointed Butch Bowers, a lawyer from South Carolina, to represent him after members of his past legal teams indicated they would not join the new effort.

The former president is at a disadvantage compared to his first trial, in which he had the full resources of the White House counsel's office to defend him.

Unlike his first impeachment, Mr Trump's second impeachment on January 13 was by a bipartisan vote in the House, with 10 Republican congressmen joining the Democrats.

Several Republican senators have also indicated they may vote to convict the former president after his upcoming trial.

However, Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Mr Trump - a very high bar.

The length of the trial, which will be determined by the length of questions and whether witnesses are called, is still an open question.

Mr Trump's last impeachment trial lasted 21 days but senators have privately suggested the upcoming trial will be shorter.