The third political trial of a US president in history is about to reach the Senate. The House of Representatives has approved this Wednesday the appointment of the seven Democratic congressmen who will serve as prosecutors in the impeachment against President Donald Trump in the wake of the Ukrainian scandal and has activated the sending of charges – abuse of power and obstruction to Congress – to the upper house. For weeks, a hundred senators who become members of a jury will listen to the arguments of the parties, perhaps also to witnesses, and decide if the president must be dismissed.
The script of the day has shown that this country lacks royalty but loves pomp. The historic vote is followed by a solemn ceremony this afternoon, which begins with the symbolic delivery of charges against the president – the so-called articles of the impeachment– by the president of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, to the newly appointed prosecutors, the secretary of the House and the sergeant of arms. Then, the entourage march in procession to present these articles to the secretary of the Senate. The occasion deserves, in any case, grandiloquence. There are only two precedents of impeachment in the United States, that of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and that of Bill Clinton in 1998. None ended the fall of the president, but at every moment in history it shook the nation.
The upper house becomes a court starting Thursday. The president of the Supreme Court, Judge John Roberts, will go that same day to swear in office, as will the 100 American senators, who now become jurors. For some of them, the calendar cannot be worse. This the third impeachment of US history, but the first that matches amid a Democratic primary, and four candidates are senators whose agendas campaign you just blow up. Everyone must participate in the sessions, six days a week, in silence and with the phones turned off. Just a little over two weeks after the first caucus in Iowa, this process is a serious hurry for two of the most prominent candidates in the polls, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Although the trial formally begins with the oaths, the initial arguments of the charges are expected next Tuesday. The chairman of the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives, Adam Schiff and his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice, Jerry Nadler, first swords Democrats in the research phase and hearings earlier that developed during more than two months, were given by discounted in the tax group. To these, the congressmen Zoe Lofgren, of California; Hakeem Jeffries, New York; Val Domings, representative from Florida; Jason Crow of Colorado; and Silvia Garcia, Texas. On the other hand, the 53 Republican senators have closed ranks around Trump, so the president's acquittal is taken for granted.
The president is accused of abuse of power in search of electoral benefit for the maneuvers for Ukraine to announce an investigation against its political rival Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate for the presidential elections in 2020, and his son for his business in the country. It must also answer for the accusation of obstruction to Congress, since it decided to torpedo the entire phase of prior instruction in the House of Representatives, rejecting the declaration of witnesses of the Administration and the delivery of dozens of documents.
A question of this trial is whether the Republicans, determined to declare Trump innocent as soon as possible, accept the declaration of new witnesses, something that the Democrats do not stop claiming.
This process has proved absolutely tribal. The closest precedent, that of the impeachment to Bill Clinton in 1998 following the Lewinsky case, also developed with high doses of partisanship, but at least the rules according to which the trial would take place unanimously went forward. That seems unlikely this time. If the Democratic majority in the lower house handled the entire previous phase of this procedure, it is now the Republican majority who has the pan by the handle.