New York, Jan 26 (IANS) A team from the US House of Representatives ceremoniously walked across the Capitol, along the path of the mayhem that rocked Congress on January 6, to the Senate chamber and presented the chargesheet accusing former President Donald Trump of inciting the deadly riots.
On Monday, Representative Jamie Raskin, who is leading the House prosecutors, read out to the Senate the Article of Impeachment, as the chargesheet is known, formally setting the stage for Trump’s trial on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” that had been voted by the House.
There was a sense of deja vu as this is the second impeachment of Trump, who was only the third President to be impeached. Exactly a year and 10 days ago, the same ritual took place.
And now he will be the only President impeached and tried after leaving office.
The Senate will hold a judicial-style trial on the charges with the senators acting as jurors.
All 100 US Senators will be sworn in on Tuesday and the trial will begin on February 8, giving Trump time to prepare his defence.
A two-thirds majority of the Senate is required to convict Trump, putting the final verdict in the hands of 17 Republicans who will have to defect to the Democratic side in the chamber where each party has 50 members.
Trump was acquitted in the impeachment last year when the Democrats, who were a minority in the Senate at the time, could not muster a two-thirds majority.
Senate Mitch McConnell and some Republican Senators have openly blamed Trump for the January 6 riots, but they have not shown any indication that they would vote to convict him,
In a display of pageantry, the acting sergeant at arms of the Senate, called out, “Hear ye, hear ye”, and ordered silence before Raskin read out the Article of Impeachment.
The ceremonial show was symbolic as the constitutional provisions for impeachment were written with sitting Presidents and other officials in mind to remove them from office and Trump is already out of the White House.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asserted that impeachment would be unconstitutional as Trump was no longer the President and the Senate could not “vindicate political grievances after a president has left office”.
But Democratic Party’s Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said that the trial was constitutional citing the penalty that includes barring someone convicted of holding offices in future.
It “will be about to disqualify him from future office”, he said.
Under the Constitution, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the impeachment trial of the President in the Senate. But Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s first trial, declined the task as he was no longer the President.
Vice President Kamala Harris is also the President of the Senate, but she will not preside over the trial as there is an apparent conflict of interest as the riots were an outcome of Trump questioning her election and that of Biden.
Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving senator, will instead preside over the trial.
Some Republicans have questioned his impartiality and his qualification to preside over the trial because he would be a judge and juror.
“I have presided over hundreds of hours in my time in the Senate. I don’t think anybody has ever suggested I was anything but impartial in those hundreds of hours,” Leahy said.
The Article of Impeachment presented by Raskin said citing Trump’s speech to a rally of his supporters before Congress was to ratify the electoral college votes electing Biden as President.
It said that there he made “false claims that awe won this election, and we won it by a landslide”, and incited the crowd with statements like “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore”.
Five people, including a police officer, were killed when a section of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and force their way into the Senate chamber and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Raskin and eight other Representatively known as impeachment managers will act as prosecutors during the trial.
Trump had been charged in the first impeachment with obstruction of Congress and abuse of power over accusations that he withheld aid voted by Congress to Ukraine to get that country to investigate President Biden and his son, Hunter.
When Biden was Vice President and dealt with Ukraine, Hunter Biden, who had been removed from the Navy over drug allegation had been made a director of a Ukrainian gas company with payments reportedly of over $50,000 per month despite having no expertise in the region or in the energy sector.