Historic Trump impeachment trial to begin in earnest

Andrew Cummings
January 21, 2020

Donald Trump's impeachment trial begins in earnest in the Senate on Tuesday in a rare use of the constitutional mechanism for ousting a president that has only deepened the polarization of USA voters ahead of presidential elections in November.

The impeachment trial marks a historic moment in the United States, highlighting the deep divisions in the country. "The eyes of America are watching".

Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell is expected to offer the initial parameters, which will modify those used in Bill Clinton's 1999 trial.

"This is a process you use if you want to, hand in hand, working in concert with the president, allow the president to continue to obstruct the Congress and deny the truth to the American people", Schiff said shortly before the Senate was to debate the rules. Senators will have 16 hours for questions and four hours for debate, after 24 hours for opening arguments on each side.

Trump has been saying for months that Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the House managers and oversaw the inquiry in the House Intelligence Committee, illegally coordinated with the Ukraine whistleblower and should be required to testify at the trial.

Schumer reiterated the criticism against those 12-hour days: "If the president is so confident in his case, why doesn't he present it when the sun is shining?"

Instead the lawyers for the president, led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and a TV-famous legal team including Alan Dershowitz, say the two charges against the president don't amount to impeachable offenses and Trump committed no crime.

It is only the third time in U.S. history that a president is facing an impeachment trial.

Trump is accused of withholding almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine's war against Russian-backed separatists, and refusing Zelensky a White House meeting, unless he opened a probe of Biden.

The House impeachment investigation centred on a whistle-blower complaint in which Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the phone and asked for the investigation into Biden.

The 171-page brief submitted by Trump's legal team is the first comprehensive defence of the president, ahead of the trial beginning in earnest.

Legal scholars have long insisted the framers of the Constitution provided impeachment as a remedy for "other high crimes and misdemeanors", a particularly broad definition that doesn't mean simply specific criminal acts.

Like Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also be away for the proceedings, leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Poland and Israel to commemorate the 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz at the end of World War II. Any witnesses who are subpoenaed would first be deposed, and then the Senate would decide after the deposition which, if any, of those witnesses would testify at the trial, "pursuant to impeachment rules".

The first full day of the Trump impeachment trial will be dominated by a partisan fighting over the rules of the proceedings.

The president late Monday named eight House Republicans, some of his fiercest defenders, to a special team tasked with rallying support beyond the Senate chamber in the court of public opinion. House managers practiced their opening arguments well into the night.

While the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to remove Trump from office, it is important for him to try to diminish the Democratic accusations to limit political damage to his bid for a second term. No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process. "Even if it did, the White House team argues it would be an "'unconstitutional conviction" because the articles of impeachment were too broad.

Other reports by iNewsToday