Donald Trump's impeachment trial delayed by Senate until February

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Rozina Sabur
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Nancy Pelosi said initially said the trial could start within days - Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg 
Nancy Pelosi said initially said the trial could start within days - Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg

Donald Trump's impeachment trial will be delayed for two weeks after Senate leaders on Friday agreed a deal that will give President Biden time to begin his legislative agenda.

House Democrats had on Friday vowed to send an article of impeachment charging Mr Trump with "incitement of insurrection" to the Senate next week, setting 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.

But Senate leaders agreed on Friday evening to delay the trial to give Mr Biden time to install his new cabinet and prepare key legislation.

Democrats in the House, led by Nancy Pelosi, still intend to deliver the charge on Monday but Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, said the proceedings would pause until the week of February 8.

The extra time will also allow the prosecution and defence teams time to exchange written legal arguments.

Mr Schumer said: “During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the Covid relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic.”

Earlier, Democrats had effectively rejected a request from Republicans to delay the start of proceedings to give Mr Trump time to prepare his defence.

Mr Schumer had declined to give a timetable for the proceedings but the chamber's rules dictate that the trial must begin very soon after the article of impeachment arrives.

"There will be a trial," Mr Schumer said. "It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial".

Mr Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, have been negotiating the parameters for the trial for days.

Democrats proposed splitting the Senate's day between hearings to confirm Joe Biden’s cabinet appointments and the impeachment trial in order to allow the new president to push ahead with his bold agenda for his first 100 days in office.

The prospect of the impeachment trial had been a source of frustration for Mr Biden's administration, with several key Cabinet posts yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, declined to be drawn on Mr Biden's views on the proceedings on Friday, saying the president "believes the Senate should determine how to hold the former president accountable." The trial will be carried out with Democratic impeachment managers from the House serving as prosecutors and Mr Trump's lawyers delivering his defence.

All 100 senators will serve as the jury and will vote to convict or acquit Mr Trump at the trial's conclusion.

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.

Some Republicans have argued that the trial should be dismissed, arguing that the impeachment trial of a president who has already left office is unconstitutional. But Mr Schumer pushed back on that argument on Friday, saying: “It makes no sense whatsoever that a president or any official 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”.

Mr Trump was impeached by the House of "incitement of insurrection" after the deadly attack on the Capitol by his supporters 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.

The House impeached Mr Trump a week later on a bipartisan vote, 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.

The Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump
The Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump

However, in a sign of the support Mr Trump still commands within his party, the ten Republicans in the House who voted to impeach him are facing growing backlash from their fellow congressmen.

Among them is Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the House, who is facing a leadership challenge from by pro-Trump loyalists in her caucus.

The revolt raises questions about the Republican party's future, with leaders in Congress and grassroots activists at odds over Mr Trump's actions. Mr McConnell, who said this week that Mr Trump "provoked" his supporters before the riot, has left open the possibility that he will vote to convict the former president. Such a move by the Republican Senate leader could pave the way for other GOP senators to follow suit.

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.