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BREAKING !!!: Senate gets ready to open impeachment trial against Donald Trump



For only the third time in US history, the Senate is preparing on Thursday to open an impeachment trial against the president, who stands accused of abusing the powers of his office and obstructing a congressional investigation of his deeds.

Prosecutors from the House of Representatives, known as “managers”, are expected to arrive to the Senate at midday local time (5pm GMT) to formally exhibit the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, approved last month by the House.

At 2pm, US supreme court chief justice John Roberts is scheduled to join the proceedings and be sworn in for his presiding role at the trial. He then will swear in the 100 senators – 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents – as jurors.

A two-thirds majority of voting senators would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office, but he appears to be extremely well insulated against that possibility by Republican loyalists.

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Despite his declaration last month that he could not be an “impartial juror” in the case, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed on Wednesday night that each senator would weigh the case against Trump with care.

“We’ll pledge to rise above the petty factionalism and do justice for our institutions, for our states and for the nation,” McConnell said.

After the swearing-in, the Senate will issue a writ of summons to Trump, inviting him to the trial, although the president is not expected to attend, but to send legal representatives instead.

The White House released a statement on Wednesday that said “President Trump has done nothing wrong” and “expects to be fully exonerated”.

Opening arguments in the Senate trial, to be made by the seven impeachment managers for the prosecution and by representatives of Trump for the defense when the trial begins in earnest, were scheduled for Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King holiday.

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The team of impeachment managers is led by intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff and judiciary committee chair Jerry Nadler. Trump has reportedly tapped the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, to lead his team.

The managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a ceremonial procession Wednesday evening. “We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said before a vote to transmit the articles.

The second-ranking member of the Senate, Iowan Chuck Grassley, will swear in Roberts on Thursday. The chief justice will then administer this oath to the senators:

“I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws: so help me God.

Addressing her colleagues on the House floor, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, sharply rejected criticism by Republicans that she had delayed transmission of the articles.

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“Don’t talk to me about my timing,” she said. After months of resisting calls “from across the country” for Trump’s impeachment, she said, Trump ultimately “gave us no choice. He gave us no choice.”

Trump was impeached in December for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress relating to a scheme in which he pressured Ukraine to announce false investigations of the former vice-president Joe Biden and then fought an inquiry into the scheme.

Following the vote on Wednesday, Pelosi signed the articles of impeachment, which were placed in folders and moved in a procession at sunset from the House to the Senate. The Senate invited House members to return to formally “exhibit” the articles on Thursday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pelosi revealed the seven-member team, known as impeachment managers, who will prosecute the case against Trump at the Senate trial. The team includes six lawyers and will be led by Adam Schiff, the intelligence committee chair, and Jerry Nadler, chair of the judiciary committee.

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The group includes women, two African Americans and one Latina – a stark contrast with the all-white and -male teams of prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trials of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999, both of which ended in acquittal.

No US president has ever been removed through impeachment, though Richard Nixon resigned in the face of the prospect.

While Trump’s removal is unlikely, the trial holds political hazards for him. He succeeded in enforcing message discipline among Republicans as impeachment moved through the House last fall, but there were indicators that the conduct of some Republicans in the Senate would be more difficult to manage.

A group of moderate Republicans has expressed openness in recent weeks to hearing from witnesses and a desire to weigh the charges against Trump on the merits. Those positions could quickly wither under personal pressure from Trump, who has directed rage at any suggestion that his conduct was less than perfect.

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House Republicans responded vigorously to Trump’s demands that they defend him, offering worshipful assessments of Trump’s conduct, which they said was motivated by Trump’s desire to fight corruption in Ukraine.

But that posture may become more difficult as new evidence continues to emerge of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing.

On Tuesday night, House Democrats released newly gathered evidence including a handwritten note by a Trump associate describing a plot involving the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and Biden.

Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in a scheme to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, that associate, Lev Parnas, told MSNBC on Wednesday night.

House prosecutors are expected to present newly obtained evidence from Parnas over the course of the impeachment trial, which could unearth new evidence of misconduct by Trump.

In preparation to receive the articles of impeachment, the Senate leadership on Wednesday circulated rules of decorum for the trial. The rules require senators to be in attendance “at all times”, to stand at their desks when the chief justice enters the chamber, to maintain silence during the proceedings and not to bring along phones or other electronic devices.

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The trial was expected to last at least two weeks, but it could go on for much longer if the sides begin calling witnesses. Certain potential witnesses, such as the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and former national security adviser John Bolton, might be able to fill in details of an alleged scheme in which Trump withheld almost $400m in military aid appropriated by Congress to achieve his personal political ends.

The White House declined to rule out going to court in an attempt to block Bolton and other witnesses testifying.


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