The U.S. Senate meets on Thursday for the first session in the historic impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Senators on Wednesday approved Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell's proposal to receive the House of Representatives prosecutors in the Senate on Thursday afternoon at 12:00 noon (6:00 p.m. CET). There they will present the two charges against Trump. He is accused of abuse of power and hindrance to the House of Representatives' investigations.
The Senate also decided that the U.S. Chief Justice, John Roberts, would be received at the chamber at 2:00 p.m. local time (20 CET). He will then be sworn in before taking an oath from the 100 senators. McConnell said the substantive impeachment process will begin next Tuesday – Monday is a public holiday in the United States. The White House had been notified of the upcoming trial.
Trump has to face impeachment in the Senate as the third president in U.S. history. His Republicans have the majority there. For impeachment, two thirds of the 100 senators would have to vote for at least one of the two charges. This is considered extremely unlikely.
The background is the Ukraine affair. The Democrats accuse Trump of urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenski to investigate his political rival Joe Biden in order to influence the 2020 US presidential election in his favor. They see it as proven that Trump has made a meeting with Selensky in the White House and the release of military aid for Ukraine dependent on the announcement of such an investigation.
When that came out, Trump had done everything he could to block the House investigation.
What is the procedure?
- On Thursday at 6 p.m. CET, the House prosecutors will present their charges against Trump.
- The U.S. Chief Justice is sworn in at 8:00 p.m. CET. He will then swear in the 100 senators, 53 of whom are Republicans.
- Next Tuesday, the Senate, under Republican majority leader Mitch McConnel, plans to lay down procedural rules.
- Prosecution and defense are heard like in a lawsuit.
- The senators may only put questions in writing and may not speak at the hearings.
- The Democrats who initiated the impeachment process hope for further testimony that will burden Trump.
- The Senate will not decide whether other witnesses, such as Trump's former National Security Advisor John Bolton, will be heard until charges and defense have been heard.
- For an actual impeachment, 67 senators should have found Trump guilty. It seems unthinkable that so many Republicans switch to the Democratic camp.
- The Democrats hope that the allegations against Trump will cost him votes in the November election.
- If some Republicans found him guilty, that would also be a success for the Democrats.
The White House said on Wednesday: "These are the weakest charges that have ever been passed in impeachment proceedings against a president." The Senate process is therefore not expected to take longer than two weeks. The White House said "soon" who would be part of the President's defense team, it said.
The prosecutors had brought the two charges against Trump in a kind of procession from the House of Representatives to the Senate on Wednesday evening. Both Houses of Parliament are based in the Capitol in Washington. The House of Representatives had previously voted on Wednesday with the majority of the Democrats to submit the charges and confirmed the prosecutors. This finally cleared the way for impeachment proceedings in the Senate.
The prosecutors were appointed by the chairwoman of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi. The team of so-called Impeachment Managers is led by the chairman of the Secret Service Committee in the House of Representatives, Adam Schiff.
Before submitting the charges, Pelosi said it was "so sad, so tragic" that the President's actions had brought the country to that point. The Democrats renewed their allegations against Trump on Wednesday. Justice Committee chairman Jerry Nadler spoke of "overwhelming evidence" that "the president cheated the country".
Trump expects full relief
Pelosi had initiated the impeachment investigation against Trump in the House of Representatives in September. Four weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed the two charges with the majority of Democrats – without a single Republican vote.
Pelosi has since held back charges on inconsistencies with the Republicans about the process in the Senate. There is controversy over whether further witnesses should be heard in the Senate, which the Democrats are demanding. While the Democrats have the majority in the House of Representatives, Trump's Republicans have 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate.
According to the White House, Trump expects a complete discharge from all allegations. His spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said on Wednesday that Trump was looking forward to the Senate having the right to a due process, which the House of Democrats had denied him. Grisham spoke of an "illegitimate impeachment process" and emphasized: "President Trump has done nothing wrong." (AP)