Washington (AP) – In impeachment proceedings against former US President Donald Trump, the longest-serving US Senator, Democrat Patrick Leahy, will be chairman. Leahy, 80, was sworn into the Senate on Tuesday.
He then took the oath of the 100 senators, who assume the role of jury in the proceedings and ultimately decide on the trial. The impeachment process begins in the second week of February. The House of Representatives had previously forwarded the charges to the Senate – the other chamber in Congress.
Leading Democratic prosecutor in the House of Representatives, Jamie Raskin, presented the Senate resolution on Monday evening, in which Republican Trump is personally responsible for his supporters’ attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6. At least five people were killed in the riots, including a police officer. From a democratic perspective, the incident proved that Trump is a threat to national security, democracy and the constitution, as stated in the indictment. The charge against Trump is “inciting uproar”.
Trump was replaced as president by Democrat Joe Biden last Wednesday. However, Trump could be banned from office for life at the federal level if convicted in the Senate. That would undo all of Trump’s plans to run for office again in 2024.
Trump is now facing a second impeachment trial – a first in US history. The first impeachment proceedings ended in February 2020 with an acquittal in the Senate. At the time, Trump’s Republicans were still controlling the room.
Critics do not consider the impeachment process legal after Trump left the White House. The fact that Trump is no longer president also brings procedural peculiarities. Usually, impeachment proceedings against Senate presidents are led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Since Trump has already left office, the senior senator is now the chair of the process.
The reading of the indictment, the swearing-in of the chairman and senators, and the initial statements of the defendant and the prosecutor are part of preparations for the trial, according to the US Congress Research Service (CRS). The actual start of the proceedings – scheduled for the second week of February – is marked by the opening speech of the Lower House, followed by that of the defense.
Angry Trump supporters forcibly entered the Capitol in early January after Trump delivered an inflammatory speech not far from the White House. At the time, Congress had gathered in the Capitol to formally confirm Biden’s election victory. In the riot five people were killed, including a police officer.
A two-thirds majority of the senators present would be required to condemn Trump. The Republicans and Democrats of the new President Biden each have 50 seats in the Senate. So 17 Republicans should also stand up to Trump. It is doubtful whether this will happen. In the event of a conviction, a simple majority on a second vote would be enough to impose the ban on Trump requested by the Democrats.
Biden, who has been largely unobtrusive about the impeachment process against his predecessor, told CNN he did not believe 17 Republicans would vote to condemn Trump. But he spoke out for the proceedings. “I think it has to be done.”
Prosecutors and lawyers now have two weeks to work on their impeachment documents. Written arguments from the House of Representatives and Trump’s attorneys must be filed Feb. 8. The actual impeachment process in the Senate would then begin on February 9. Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate agreed Friday on the second week of February as the date for the start of negotiations.
The Senate wants to regulate other matters until the actual start of the procedure. This is convenient for Biden, as he is dependent on Senate approval for the confirmation of his nominee cabinet members and other top personalities. On Monday, Janet Yellen was confirmed as the country’s prime minister of finance. On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Antony Blinken as the new foreign minister of the Biden government.