Trump's Impeachement Trial: Timeline, Who is invited to preside?
President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally in Dalton, Georgia, U.S., on the eve of the run-off election to decide both of Georgia's Senate seats January 4, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Leah Millis

Timeline to Trump's Impeachment Trial in U.S. Senate

Former President Donald Trump's trial in the U.S. Senate will start in the week of Feb. 8, Senate leaders said on Friday, following his impeachment in the House of Representatives earlier this month on a charge of inciting an insurrection, according to USnews.

House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the charge against Trump stemming from his incendiary speech to supporters before they stormed the U.S.Capitol on Jan. 6 would be presented to the Senate at 7 p.m. EST (midnight GMT) on Monday by members of the House acting as prosecutors in the trial.

Senators, who will act as jurors, will be sworn in the next day, and the two sides will have a period to prepare for the trial, Schumer said, while the Senate deals with other business including confirming President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees and considering a COVID-19 relief bill.

"Then, once the briefs are drafted, presentations by the parties will commence the week of February 8th," said Schumer, a Democrat.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said McConnell was glad that Schumer had "agreed to Republicans’ request for additional time during the pre-trial phase," and that the trial could begin on Feb. 9.

Following is the agreement on the timeline according to McConnell's spokesman:

Monday, Jan. 25: Exhibition of article

Tuesday, Jan. 26: Swearing-in of Senators, issuance of summons

Tuesday, Feb. 2:

• Due date for President’s answer to article

• Due date for House’s pre-trial brief

Monday, Feb. 8:

• Due date for President’s pre-trial brief

• Due date for House’s replication to answer

Tuesday, Feb. 9: Due date for House’s pre-trial rebuttal brief (Trial can begin)

Differences between Trump’s first and second impeachment trial

The House impeached Mr. Trump the first time on December 18, 2019, after several weeks of hearings. The two articles of impeachment charged him with "Abuse of Power" and "Obstruction of Congress." The vote to impeach was divided almost entirely along partisan lines, with only one independent voting to impeach Mr. Trump, and three Democrats voting against impeachment on at least one article, Cbsnews reported.

The impeachment proceedings in the House this year were a far faster and more bipartisan affair. Mr. Trump was impeached a second time one week after he urged supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn the election ahead of Congress' scheduled counting of the Electoral College results January 6. Following his speech at the rally, a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in the deaths of five people. Congress didn't return to count the Electoral College votes for six hours, and several Republican lawmakers still voted to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

The resolution to impeach Mr. Trump was brought to the House floor on January 11, with the House forgoing the traditional process of holding hearings and conducting an investigation into any wrongdoing. There was only one article of impeachment this time, charging Mr. Trump with "Incitement of Insurrection." Ten Republicans joined all 222 Democrats in voting to impeach Mr. Trump, bringing the vote to 232 to 197.

Trump's Impeachement Trial: Timeline, Who is invited to preside?
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi Photo: AFP

After Mr. Trump was impeached in 2019, Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not announce the impeachment managers until January 15, 2020, nearly a month later. This year, Pelosi announced the impeachment managers on the same day as the vote to impeach Mr. Trump, January 13, 2021.

In 2020, senators were sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as members of the impeachment court on January 16, and the trial began on Tuesday, January 21. Mr. Trump was acquitted almost exactly two weeks later, on February 5. Senator Mitt Romney, voted to convict the president one charge, "Abuse of Power," the only Republican to vote to impeach Mr. Trump on either charge.

This year's trial is expected to be very different. Some Republicans have argued that it is unconstitutional to impeach a president who is no longer in office, but the Constitution does not specify whether a president needs to be in office to be impeached.

*READ MORE: US President Impeachment: How many presidents impeached, How it works?

It is also unclear how long the second trial will last, or what evidence either side would choose to bring. Pelosi argued on Thursday that this impeachment trial would differ from Mr. Trump's first impeachment trial, which was triggered by a call he made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 urging Ukraine to investigate then-candidate Joe Biden. Mr. Trump defended his call to Zelensky as "perfect.", , Cbsnews added.

Mr. Trump's legal team has yet to be officially announced, but one of his lawyers will be South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, who has experience representing politicians embroiled in scandals.

A two-thirds majority of the Senate, 67 votes, is required to convict the president. Democrats hold 50 seats in the Senate, and it is unlikely they could garner support from 17 Republicans to convict Mr. Trump, particularly since he is no longer in office. However, more Republicans may vote to convict Mr. Trump than in 2020, as he has been harshly criticized by some GOP senators for encouraging violence among his supporters on January 6.

If Mr. Trump were convicted by the Senate, Congress would then vote on whether to bar him from seeking elected office again. Only a simple majority is needed to bar him from holding office.

Who can preside over Trump’s Senate trial?

Trump's Impeachement Trial: Timeline, Who is invited to preside?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's signature is seen on the single article of impeachment against President Trump. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

The Constitution provides as follows: “When the president is tried, the chief justice shall preside.” But there is only one president of the United States, and his name now is Joseph Biden. Donald Trump is no longer the president. So it would be improper, and in violation of the Constitution, to have the chief justice of the Supreme Court preside over a trial. This is true even though Trump was impeached while he still was president. The Constitution is explicit: It uses the word “tried.”.

If the Senate were to invite Chief Justice John Roberts to preside over the trial of Citizen Trump, Roberts would have to decide whether to accept that invitation. Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, served on the legal team representing President Trump during the Senate impeachment trial predicted that Roberts will review the words of the Constitution, the history of the impeachment clause and any relevant precedents. He then will decide that the Constitution gives him no proper role in the trial of a former president.

In the normal course of events, Vice President Kamala Harris would preside, since she has the constitutional role of president of the Senate. But in this instance, the vice president, too, may have a conflict of interest. It is certainly possible that she may run for president in 2024. President Biden will be 82 years old then, and it is certainly possible that he will not seek reelection. The most obvious Democratic candidate to succeed him would be his vice president. Would it not be a conflict of interest for a potential candidate to preside over a trial whose only real function is to preclude a former president from running again in 2024?

Trump's Impeachement Trial: Timeline, Who is invited to preside?
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts leaves the Capitol building after the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump was adjourned for the day, Jan. 27, 2020. Photo: Abcnews

According to experts, the responsibility to preside may also fall to Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, as president pro tempore, Abcnews reported.

"It would be really bizarre to say any politician, much less the vice president, who was an adversary of Donald Trump, should preside over the trial," said Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe.

University of Texas law professor Steven Vladeck, a leading constitutional scholar, has also been making the case that the chief justice is the best choice and one authorized by the Constitution.

"The question should be whether the impeached officer was president at the time of impeachment. Here, he was, so Roberts presides," Vladeck wrote on Twitter.

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