Trump impeachment trial could begin on Inauguration DayFriday, January 15, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — President Donald Trump's impeachment trial could begin on Inauguration Day, just as Democrat Joe Biden takes the oath of office in an ever-more-extraordinary end to the defeated president's tenure in the White House.
The timing is not set and depends heavily on when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decides to transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate. Democrats hoping to avoid interrupting Biden's inauguration have suggested holding back until the new president has a chance to get his Administration going.
What is clear is that the trial will be unlike any other in the nation's history, the first for a president no longer in office. And, politically, it will force a reckoning among some Republicans who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.
“The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by shining a light on the truth,” said Representative Madeleine Dean, D-Pa, who will serve as an impeachment manager.
“That's what the impeachment vote was. That's what the trial in the Senate will be about.”
Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House over the deadly Capitol siege — the only president in US history twice impeached — after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building. The attack has left the nation's capital, and other major cites, under high security amid threats of more violence around the inauguration.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but he has not signalled how he would vote.
The Republican leader holds great sway in his party even though convening the trial will be among his last acts as majority leader. Two new senators from Georgia, both Democrats, are to be sworn into office leaving the chamber divided 50-50. That tips the majority to the Democrats once Kamala Harris takes office, as the vice-president is a tie-breaker.
No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely tall hurdle. But it's not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from Trump and the Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election.
At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed grave concerns about Trump's actions, and others say so privately.
Under Senate procedure, the trial is to start soon after the House delivers the article of impeachment. That could mean starting at 1:00 pm on Inauguration Day. The ceremony at the Capitol starts at noon.
Pelosi has not said when she will take the next step to transmit the impeachment article, a sole charge of incitement of insurrection. After Trump's first impeachment, in 2019, she withheld the articles for some time to set the stage for the Senate action.
Biden has said the Senate should be able to split its time and do both — hold the trial and start working on his priorities, including swift confirmation of his Cabinet nominees.