The 100-member US Senate is set to begin the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump on Tuesday to decide on whether to convict the president and remove him from office on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. There could also be votes to dismiss the trial outright.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s lawyers will offer first comprehensive defence before his trial begins in earnest in the Senate arguing that Trump is innocent of the charges and should not be removed from office, as Democrats are demanding.
The trail comes a month after the House of Representatives, controlled by the Democratic Party, voted in favour of Donald Trump’s impeachment on the two grounds.
In mid-December, the 435-member House passed the abuse of power article of impeachment on a largely party-line 230-197 vote. The House later proceeded with a vote on the second article of impeachment charging him with obstruction of Congress and the article was passed by a 229-198 vote.
However, the Senate, where the Republicans or GOP are in majority, is expected to acquit Donald Trump in the proceedings set to open today afternoon.
Donald Trump’s first response, House prosecutors replies
In its first response to impeachment summons from the Senate on Saturday, Donald Trump’s legal team called the two articles passed by the House of Representatives a “brazen and unlawful” attempt to overturn the will of the American people.
“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election-now just months away,” Donald Trump’s lawyers said on Saturday in a six-page fiery response filed with the Senate.
Donald Trump’s legal team said that he was well within his constitutional authority to press Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last year to investigate Biden and his son Hunter as part of what Trump says was an anti-corruption drive. The Bidens deny any wrongdoing and Trump’s allegations have been widely debunked.
The prosecution team of House managers, in their own filing on Monday, replied to Donald Trump’s not guilty plea by making fresh demands for fair trial in the Senate, where the Republican majority aligned with Trump has not yet disclosed the rules.
“President Trump asserts that his impeachment is a partisan ‘hoax.’ He is wrong,” the prosecutors wrote in their reply.
Besides, House Democrats called Donald Trump’s conduct the “worst nightmare” of the framers of the Constitution.
Later, Donald Trump rejected the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ impeachment charges, describing the allegations that he had abused his power and obstructed Congress as affronts to the US Constitution that must be rejected.
“The Senate should speedily reject these deficient articles of impeachment and acquit the president,” an executive summary of Trump’s pre-trial brief said in the Republican president’s first comprehensive defense before his Senate trial begins.
The team even asserted that Donald Trump did “absolutely nothing wrong,” urged the Senate to swiftly reject an impeachment case that it called “flimsy” and a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution.” The lawyers decried the impeachment process as rigged and insisted that abuse of power was not a crime.
100 Senators appointed for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial
The US Senate opened the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump with a quiet ceremony earlier this month.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in to oversee US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Roberts then proceeded to swear in all 100 senators – 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents (who caucus with the Democrats) – as jurors for the proceedings.
The US Senate opened the impeachment trial of Donald Trump with quiet ceremony on Thursday, senators standing at their desks to swear an oath of “impartial justice” as jurors on the president’s fate.
The Senators stood at their desks to swear an oath of “impartial justice” as jurors on the president’s fate. House prosecutors recited the charges, and Chief Justice John Roberts presided in his black Supreme Court robe.
What are the charges against Donald Trump?
Donald Trump is accused of abuse of power for withholding military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting for the country’s president in exchange for an investigation into his potential presidential election rival Democrat Joe Biden.
1. The first charge that Donald Trump faces is that he abused his power.
According to the US Constitution, a President can be removed from office on grounds of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours”.
Though going by letter of the law, ‘abuse of power’ per se is not an impeachable offence, however, legal scholars have opined that the intent of the founders of the United States of America was that the phrase “other high crimes and misdemeanours” broadly encompasses abuse of power, Reuters said in a report.
2. The second charge against Donald Trump is that he obstructed the Congress from investigating the charge of abuse of office against him.
Donald Trump is accused of preventing members of his administration from cooperating with the investigation the Congress. This, the Democrats say, is a “defiance” of the US Constitution.
“If the president can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfil its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive – and the president becomes a dictator,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler was quoted as saying by Reuters.
(With inputs from agencies)