The US House of Representatives has presented its article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate, a step that formally sets in motion the Senate trial against the former United States president, which is expected to start next month.
Walking from one side of the US Capitol to the other, nine House managers appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi hand-delivered the impeachment document to the Senate on Monday evening.
The article charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the deadly storming on January 6 of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC by a mob of his supporters.
The House impeached Trump on January 13 on the same charge – making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar and one of the House managers who will be acting as prosecutors in the Senate trial against Trump, read the article of impeachment out loud to the upper house on Monday.
“President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud, and should not be accepted by the American people, or certified by state or federal officials,” Raskin said.
The formal step kickstarts the trial phase of the impeachment process, in which all 100 senators will sit as jurors to hear evidence and legal arguments from the House managers and Trump’s defence team.
To be convicted, the Senate must secure a two-thirds majority on the impeachment charge.
If that happens, a subsequent vote could bar Trump from running for public office again in the future.
Trial to start in February
Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed on a timeline for the trial, which is expected to begin during the week of February 8.
“Both the House managers and the former president’s counsel will have a period of time to draft their legal briefs, just as they did in previous trials,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks to the chamber on Monday.
“Once the briefs are drafted, presentations by the parties will commence the week of February 8th,” he said.
Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Wednesday and a summons will be sent by the Senate to the former president, requiring him to answer the article of impeachment.
Trump earlier appeared defiant amid accusations he incited the Capitol mob in a speech he gave before the breach and in repeated false claims that the presidential election had been stolen from him.
Before the House vote to impeach him, Trump had said his speech to the January 6 rally of his supporters was “totally appropriate”.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat who holds the title of president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.
“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tem takes an additional oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy said in a statement.
“It is an oath I take extraordinarily seriously,” he said.
Republicans are divided over the impeachment, with some senators saying Trump should be held accountable for the Capitol riot and others fearing a conviction of the former Republican president could be damaging for the party.
Some Republican legislators have argued that holding an impeachment trial after Trump has left office is unconstitutional – a claim that has been rejected by Democrats and some US experts.
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said on Monday that some Republicans have also said the trial could further divide the country.
“Democrats, to counter that, have said that in order to get to unity, as everyone is calling for, first there must be accountability,” Zhou-Castro said.
“And they’re saying that if Trump were to indeed be guilty of inciting insurrection and simply leave office and not be held accountable, then that would set a dangerous precedent.”
Democrats will need to get more than a dozen Republicans to vote in favour of impeachment to get a conviction, because they only have a slim majority in the chamber.
Trial timeline, procedure
House managers and Trump’s defence team will exchange legal briefs in the days leading up to the start of the trial.
The nine House managers will be led in the trial by Raskin, a constitutional scholar and leading advocate in the House for charging Trump with insurrection after the January 6 attacks.
The House managers have retained lawyers Barry Berke and Joshua Matz to help support their prosecution of the case.
Both Berke and Matz participated in the first Senate impeachment trial against Trump in 2020, which involved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice for his attempts to pressure the government of Ukraine.
For his part, Trump has retained Butch Bowers of South Carolina, an experienced trial lawyer who has previously represented politicians.
House managers will have until February 2 to file their pre-trial brief laying out the case for conviction. Trump’s defence counsel will have the same deadline to respond to the charge, the Reuters news agency reported.
February 8 is the next deadline for Trump’s legal team to file a response to the House brief, and for the House managers to file a response to the president’s answer to the article of impeachment.