Trump impeachment trial put off until early February

WION Web Team
Washington, DC, United States of America Published: Jan 23, 2021, 04:37 PM(IST)

FILE -- President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event for Georgia’s Republican senators in Dalton, Ga., Jan. 4, 2021. In the aftermath of President Trump’s efforts to subvert the election, state officials face harassment and threats, and a district attorney is weighing an inquiry into the president’s actions. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times) Photograph:( The New York Times )

Story highlights

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said the trial is set to begin during the week of February 8.

The leaders of the US Senate have agreed to push back former president Donald Trump's impeachment trial by two weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said the trial is set to begin during the week of February 8, an arrangement praised by the chamber's top Republican, Mitch McConnell.

This would give the chamber more time to focus on President Joe Biden's legislative agenda and Cabinet nominees before turning to the contentious showdown over Trump.

Trump on January 13 became the first US president to have been impeached twice. The Senate acquitted him last year in the previous trial focused on his request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son. Trump's presidential term ended on Wednesday.

The House of Representatives is due to formally deliver to the Senate on Monday (January 25) the impeachment charge accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection, a move that ordinarily would have triggered the beginning of the trial within a day. 

The charge stems from Trump's incendiary speech to supporters before they stormed the Capitol on January 6 in a rampage that delayed the formal congressional certification of Biden's election victory and left five people dead, including a police officer.

The new timeline, however, will allow the Senate to move quickly on key Biden appointees and other tasks while giving House lawmakers who will prosecute the case and Trump's team more time to prepare for the trial.

The timeline was a compromise after McConnell had asked the Democratic-led House to delay sending the charge until next Thursday, and called on Schumer to postpone the trial until mid-February to give Trump more time to prepare a defense.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for McConnell, said the senator was pleased Democrats had given Trump's defense more time, and laid out a timeline that could have the trial begin as soon as February 9.

Under the timeline, House impeachment managers will file their pre-trial brief and Trump's defense team will file an answer to the impeachment charge on February 2, and each side will respond to those filings on February 8.

Meanwhile, conviction in the Senate would require a two-thirds vote - meaning 17 of Trump's fellow Republicans would have to vote against him. A conviction would clear the way for a second vote, requiring a simply majority, to bar Trump from holding office again.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters earlier in the day that the Senate should be able to move forward with both the trial and Biden's agenda, beginning with his call for $1.9 trillion of fresh COVID-19 assistance for Americans and the US economy.

The deal came even as Schumer and McConnell struggled to assert control in a chamber divided 50-50, with Democrats holding a majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.

Trump has, meanwhile, said he may seek the presidency again in 2024.

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