Schumer promises quick but fair trial as Trump impeachment heads to Senate

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Amanda Holpuch in New York
·4 min read
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The single article of impeachment against Donald Trump will on Monday evening be delivered to the Senate, where the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, is promising a quick but fair trial.

Related: Trump's second impeachment trial: the key players

In the week after 8 February, the former president will face his second impeachment trial, this time on a charge of inciting the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol building on 6 January.

“It will be a fair trial but it will move relatively quickly,” Schumer, from New York, told reporters on Sunday. The trial would not take up too much time, he said, because “we have so much else to do”.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, will walk the article from the House, through the Capitol and to the Senate at 7pm ET, marking the formal start of the impeachment trial. But there will be a two-week lull in proceedings, after Schumer and the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, reached an agreement on Friday.

“During that period,” Schumer said, “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.”

The delay will give both legal teams two more weeks to prepare. Pelosi has named the House managers who will prosecute Trump, led by Jamie Raskin, a representative from Maryland who is also a professor of constitutional law.

An attorney from South Carolina, Karl “Butch” Bowers, will lead Trump’s defense. Bowers’ most high-profile cases to date include defending a controversial Republican-backed transgender bathroom bill in North Carolina and representing a governor of his own state, Mark Sanford, when he faced impeachment.

Trump, who has left Washington for his private resort in Florida, is accused of inciting the Capitol insurrection while trying to overturn his election defeat.

The impeachment article mentions his attempt to get Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, to “find” votes that would overturn the result there, as detailed in a recorded phone call that was obtained by reporters.

Senators are also likely to be asked to consider new reporting, first by the New York Times, which alleges that in Trump’s final weeks in office he considered replacing the acting attorney general with a Department of Justice (DoJ) lawyer ready to pursue unfounded claims of election fraud.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump pushed the DoJ to ask the supreme court to invalidate Biden’s win. Senior officials reportedly threatened to resign en masse if the acting attorney general was forced out.

Trump survived his first impeachment, over approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political rivals, last year. He became the first federal official to be impeached twice on 13 January, when every House Democrat and 10 Republicans voted to send him to the Senate for trial.

In a statement then, Pelosi said: “Exactly one week after the attack on the Capitol to undermine the integrity of our democracy, a bipartisan vote of the House of Representatives passed the article of impeachment, which is our solemn duty to deliver to the Senate.”

Though the Senate is now controlled by Democrats, two-thirds of senators must vote against Trump if he is to be convicted. That means 17 Republicans must go against a former president from their own party. As of Friday, according to a tally by the Washington Post, 42 senators had said they supported impeachment, 19 were open to conviction, 28 were opposed and 11 had made no indication.

Dozens of influential Republicans are said to be lobbying senators to convict. McConnell has said the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, leading to the deaths of five people including a police officer, were “fed lies” by Trump.

If Trump is convicted, senators could also vote to ban him from ever holding public office again. That only requires a majority vote.

Related: Mitch McConnell 'plays the long game' to retain some power as it slips away

On ABC on Sunday, the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar was asked if Democrats might consider “either a censure or some kind of a resolution under the 14th amendment to prevent President Trump from running for office again”, should he escape conviction in his Senate trial.

“We’re focused on impeachment,” Klobuchar said, “but there are many options. Things can be looked at. But I think the thing that your viewers need to know right now is that we must do many things at once.”

Biden been accordingly discreet about impeachment, instead focusing on legislative priorities and getting cabinet nominees confirmed.

“The more time we have to get up and running to meet these crises,” the new president said recently, “the better.”