It is a historic procedure, which has only taken place twice before in the United States. Next Tuesday is to start the Donald Trump impeachment trial in the Senate. After weeks of talks in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House signed the indictment against the President on Wednesday, formalizing the handover between the lower house and the upper house of Congress American.
Donald Trump is accused of lobbying to convince Ukraine to open an investigation into Joe Biden, his potential rival in the presidential election next November. We take stock of the next steps in the procedure.
Thursday, January 16: judges and prosecutors take the oath
During the time of this particular trial, American elected officials will have to put themselves in the shoes of judges and prosecutors, and “deliver justice in an impartial manner”, as provided for in the Constitution of the United States.
Wednesday January 15, Nancy Pelosi designated the seven democratic parliamentarians who will play the role of prosecutors, or “managers”. This Thursday, they are expected to formally present the indictment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress’ work against Donald Trump in the Senate. Their role will be to demonstrate his guilt.
Among them, Adam Schiff, one of Donald Trump’s pet peeves, will serve as chief prosecutor. Head of the House Intelligence Committee, the 59-year-old elected official supervised the dismissal investigation against the president who had given him several nicknames, including “Schiff the deceiver”. He is to be sworn in this Thursday.
The head of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Roberts, charged with the constitution to preside over the trial, will then also take the oath of the senators, who will judge the case.
Tuesday, January 21: start of the Senate trial
The trial will actually begin next Tuesday, January 21. It shouldn’t last more than two weeks, according to a senior Trump administration official.
During this period, senators must attend the hearings, without leaving the room and respecting the utmost silence. If they have questions for the parties, they must put them in writing to John Roberts, who will then read them aloud.
At the end of the procedure, senators will have to vote for or against the removal of the President of the United States. The decision is made by a two-thirds majority. In previous impeachment proceedings in the country, Presidents Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999 – tried for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky – were acquitted.
The schedule of hearings to be determined
There are still some details to be determined. The precise timing of the trial is not yet known: the Constitution establishes its principles, but not the exact procedure. It will be up to the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, to determine this.
In principle, managers have several days to develop their charge. Then Donald Trump’s lawyers will have the same number of days to defend him. The number of days available to each will therefore be arbitrated by Mictch McConnell. During the Bill Clinton trial, there were public hearings every day from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The prosecution and the defense each had three days to develop their arguments.
Another important question remains to be determined: Mitch McConnell must decide whether it will be possible to summon witnesses during the trial. Democrats would particularly like to bring in close advisers to Donald Trump who was banned from participating in the investigation by the White House. Up to now, Mitch McConnell has been rather against the idea of hearing witnesses. His decision could be decisive on the outcome of the trial.