Donald Trump may face the music sooner than expected as Democrats push for his second impeachment trial to begin despite his allies’ best attempts to delay.
Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial for the former president on the charge of incitement of insurrection for the deadly Capitol riot will start February 8 (local time).
This is the first time a former president will face charges after leaving office, the Associated Press reported.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the article of impeachment late Monday, January 25, with senators sworn in as jurors Tuesday but opening arguments will move to February.
“We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.
“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.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule on Friday evening (local time) after reaching an agreement with Republicans.
The start date of February 8 will allow more time for the Senate to confirm Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominations and mull his proposed Covid relief package - top priorities of the new White House agenda that could become stalled during trial proceedings.
“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Schumer said about the deadly January 6 Capitol siege by a mob of pro-Trump supporters.
“But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.”
Trump was last seen leaving the White House and dodging President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony before heading to Florida.
Democrats need Republican support for a conviction
Republicans have attempted to delay the proceedings to allow for Trump to have more time to prepare his defence.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told his fellow GOP senators on a call on Thursday (local time) that a short delay would give Trump time to prepare and stand up his legal team, ensuring due process.
Schumer is in charge of the Senate, assuming the majority leader post after Democrats won two new Senate seats in Georgia and Vice-President Kamala Harris was sworn in Wednesday.
But with such a narrow divide, Republicans will have some say over the trial's procedure.
Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump, a high bar.
While most Republican senators condemned Trump's actions on the day of the insurrection, far fewer appear to be ready to convict.
A handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open - but not committed - to conviction.
But most have come to Trump’s defence as it relates to impeachment, saying they believe a trial will be divisive and questioning the legality of trying a president after he has left office.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who has been helping him find lawyers, said there is “a very compelling constitutional case” on whether Trump can be impeached after his term - an assertion Democrats reject, saying there is ample legal precedent.
Graham also suggested Republicans will argue Trump’s words on January 6 were not legally “incitement.”
“On the facts, they’ll be able to mount a defence, so the main thing is to give him a chance to prepare and run the trial orderly, and hopefully the Senate will reject the idea of pursuing presidents after they leave office,” Graham said.
McConnell, who said this week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote.
He said Senate Republicans “strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defence and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal and constitutional questions.”
Pelosi said on Friday (local time) the nine House impeachment managers, or prosecutors, are "ready to begin to make their case" against Trump.
Trump's team will have had the same amount of time since the House impeachment earlier this month vote to prepare, Pelosi said.
Democrats say they can move quickly through the trial, potentially with no witnesses, because lawmakers experienced the insurrection first-hand.
With Associated Press
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