Washington, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- Top lawmakers in the US Senate on Monday arrived at agreement on the schedule and structure of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, slated to begin on Tuesday on the charge of “inciting insurrection” and which they promised will be “fair.”
“All parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Monday. “The structure we have agreed to is eminently fair.”
Schumer emphasized that the agreed-upon structure guarantees a fair trial for the first president in US history to face two impeachment proceedings and also to face impeachment after he has left office. Trump was acquitted at his first impeachment trial in February 2020.
McConnell, too, agreed with Schumer’s assessment, reiterating that the agreement will allow Trump a “fair trial,” adding that it “preserves due process and the rights of both sides. It will give senators, as jurors, ample time to review the case and the arguments that each side will present.”
The Senate minority leader emphasized that the structure of the trial had been approved both by Trump’s defense team and by the Democratic impeachment “managers” from the House of Representatives.
The trial will begin on Tuesday at 1 pm in the Senate chamber, where the 100 US senators will assume the role of jurors.
The first day of the trial will be devoted to evaluating whether the impeachment is constitutional, something that the lawmakers will debate over the course of an allocated four hours, according to a vote on the matter.
Numerous constitutional experts have expressed the opinion that the trial is legitimate even if it cannot result in Trump’s removal from office – given that he is already an ex-president – because it evaluates deeds, facts and events that occurred when he still occupied the White House.
The Democratic managers of the impeachment argued in a document presented on Monday that there is no “January exception” allowing presidents to abuse their office during their last few days in power without expecting to face the consequences of such actions.
Some Republicans have argued that Trump should not be prosecuted for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot because he was due to leave office within two weeks anyway.
Debate on the constitutionality of the proceedings is a life preserver for those Republicans who are most uncomfortable with Trump but who do not dare to completely turn their backs on him, and in effect they can use a vote against holding the trial as proof that they did not want to convict him, regardless of other votes that they might cast during the course of the trial.
In late January, 45 Republicans voted in favor of debating the constitutionality of the proceedings in a sign that there was little appetite within the GOP for convicting Trump despite the gravity of the assault on the Capitol he is accused of inciting.
Once the Senate – as expected – decides that the process is constitutional, a decision that requires only a simple majority, the trial will resume on Wednesday at noon, when arguments by the prosecutors and Trump’s defense will commence and theoretically senators will then have to evaluate and decide on the merit of those arguments rather than whether the trial is valid or not.
A vote of two-thirds of the senators, or 67 votes in all, is required to convict the ex-president.
The impeachment will continue every day thereafter except for Saturday, at the request of one of Trump’s Jewish attorneys, and will then resume on Sunday with its anticipated conclusion coming next week if witnesses are not called.
It is anticipated that on Wednesday the opening arguments by the prosecutors or managers – nine Democratic congresspeople – will begin and will last no longer than 16 hours over two Senate trial sessions.
Trump’s defense team will have the same amount of time to present their arguments as to why they contend the ex-president should not be convicted.
Once those arguments are concluded, the senators will have four hours to pose questions of both the prosecutors and the defense team.
The proceedings also include the possibility of senators voting to call witnesses or present additional evidence, and four hours divided into equal shares have been allocated for each side’s closing arguments.