New York, Jan 11 (IANS) The stage has been set for the historic trial of US President Donald Trump before the Senate after Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended her standoff with the Republican-controlled upper house and announced that she will be forwarding it the impeachment documents.
Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic members of the House of Representative on Friday that she would hold a vote next week on sending the Articles of Impeachment, as the chargesheet framed against Trump is called, to the Senate.
He is charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The Republicans in the Senate have feared up for the trial which can start as early as next week.
The trial will be purely symbolic because the Democrats will not be able to muster the two-thirds vote needed to convict and oust Trump from office.
The nation is equally divided on whether the Senate should convict him. According to RealClear Politics, the authoritative aggregators of polls, 47.2 per cent of Americans want him removed from office, while 47.4 per cent are against it.
The offer to send the impeachment documents signals a setback for Pelosi’s attempts to force Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to introduce new evidence and witnesses at the Senate trial and to break the Republican majority on the trial procedures.
Although the Democrat-majority House had impeached Trump last month, Pelosi held on to the documents in order to delay the trial as she and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party leader in the Senate, bargained with McConnell and tried to build pressure against him.
McConnell rejected their requests and to pressure Pelosi to send the impeachment chargesheet, he backed a Republican resolution in the Senate to dismiss the impeachment if she did not send the document within a specified time.
Meanwhile, Trump taunted Pelosi saying that she was “afraid” to send the impeachment documents for trial because it was “phony.” His supporters took up the call.
The House managers for the Senate trial, who will act as prosecutors, will also be appointed next week Pelosi said.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial and the Senators will act as jurors.
Although the Senators are supposed to be neutral like jurors in a court trial, the Senate impeachment trials are political with most Senators following the party line.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the 100-member Senate and on procedural matters they have the majority to set the rules, even if a couple of Republicans defect.
Two Republican Senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, have expressed concern over how the party leaders want to hold the trial. Collins has said that Senators should remain neutral and not prejudge the case.
Trump has said that he wants a full-fledged trial with witnesses, which Pelosi also wants, but McConnell has indicated that he prefers a quick trial.
This will be only the third time that a US president would be tried after impeachment in the nation’s 243-year history and Trump can expect to be acquitted like his two predecessors, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, because there won’t be a two-thirds majority to convict and remove him from office.
The House voted to impeach Trump after proceedings spread over three months that included secret and public hearings by House committees.
The charges against Trump stem from a July phone call he had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked him as a “favour” to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Democrats say that this was an abuse power and amounted to inviting foreign interference in US elections as Biden is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump in this year’s election.
They also say that he withheld crucial military aid to Ukraine, a US ally against Russia, to pressure Zelensky and this endangered US national security. Trump said he delayed the aid to make sure the new government stomped out corruption.
Trump’s refusal to provide documents to the House investigation and allow witnesses to testify brought the obstruction charge.
Hunter Biden, who was made to leave the Navy because of alleged drug use and had no experience in the energy industry or in Ukrainian businesses was appointed a director of a gas company there and received monthly payments of $83,000, according to Republicans.
The former vice president, who was looking after Ukrainians affairs, had a prosecutor looking into gas company removed.
He and the Democrats say that it was because the prosecutor was corrupt, while Republicans see it as a conflict of interest.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)