Trump impeachment trial 2021: What does it begin and could he be convicted? - OLD

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Graig Graziosi
·3 min read
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 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

Donald Trump's historic second Senate impeachment trial is imminent but the opening arguments could still be about a month away, according to a newly-released impeachment schedule.

The House voted to impeach Mr Trump for an unprecedented second time on 13 January, accusing him of "incitement to insurrection" over the US Capitol riot that left five people dead, the ballot passing 232-197 with 10 Republicans crossing the aisle to side with their opposition.

Democrats then urged then-majority leader Mitch McConnell to call an emergency session of the upper chamber of Congress to begin the trial early in an attempt to convict and remove the 45th president from office, only for Mr McConnell to decline, arguing that a fair hearing would be impossible to arrange in that time frame and insisting it should start after the inauguration of Joe Biden on 20 January.

When will Trump's trial begin?

Mr McConnell has since pushed the start date of the trial back further, this time to 9 February, in order to allow Mr Trump's legal team time to prepare for the case and file briefs.

Arguments are expected to begin in mid-February.

The delay could be a blessing in disguise for the Biden administration, as it will give the new president time to get his Cabinet appointments confirmed in the Senate before sessions become bogged down and preoccupied by the latest Trump sideshow.

It is currently unclear whether Mr Trump can be compelled to appear before the Senate but his representatives David Schoen and Bruce Castor have insisted he will not be present.

How long could it take to play out?

There is no set timeline for the length of an impeachment trial, and numerous factors – such as whether or not witnesses will be allowed to testify – can affect the time the proceedings take.

Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial lasted about three weeks.

Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, however, took nearly two months.

How likely is the Senate to convict the former president?

The likelihood of a conviction appears increasingly slim, as Republican senators have closed ranks in recent days, speaking out against the House Democrat-led impeachment efforts.

Mr Trump's own defence team and supporters like Arkansas GOP senator Tom Cotton have argued that the proceeding is in violation of the US Constitution. Mr Cotton insists impeachment is intended for office holders only, its function is to remove a sitting president, not a private citizen.

But numerous constitutional law experts have argued that Mr Cotton's argument is incorrect and believe it would be defeated if it were to go to court.

In order to secure a conviction, 17 Senate Republicans would have to vote against Mr Trump, which seems an improbable outcome at the time of writing.

It is unclear which - if any - Senate Republicans would break away and vote in league with their Democratic counterparts, who will likely overwhelmingly vote in favour of conviction.

Mr McConnell has said he personally is "undecided" on how he will vote, although he has placed the blame for the Capitol riots on Mr Trump, in effect agreeing with the House impeachment article.

Senator Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict Mr Trump during his first impeachment trial, though it is unclear how he will vote in the upcoming proceedings, although he too has pinned the blame for the siege on the US Capitol on 6 January on the former president's incendiary rhetoric.

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