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Trump trial looms as House to send charges to Senate on January 15

WASHINGTON, DC, USA – The US House of Representatives will transmit articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate on Wednesday, January 15, setting the stage for the US leader's trial for abuse of power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced.

"Tomorrow, we will transmit those articles & name impeachment managers. The Senate must choose between the Constitution & a cover-up," she said in a tweeted statement Tuesday.

"The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial," she added.

"The president and the senators will be held accountable."

The House upheld its duty to #DefendOurDemocracy by passing two articles of impeachment against the President. Tomorrow, we will transmit those articles & name impeachment managers. The Senate must choose between the Constitution & a cover-up. https://t.co/tcPdHeMUGp pic.twitter.com/ebqA3Z1oBi — Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 14, 2020

 

The formal delivery of the charges against Trump will set the stage for the opening of his trial likely Thursday or Friday. (READ: Pelosi sees 'enough testimony' against Trump to remove him from office)

With that move, Trump will become only the third US president in US history to go on trial for removal from office, for illicitly seeking help from Ukraine to smear a rival and boost his reelection campaign this year. 

Tense trial

Trump's conviction in the trial is highly unlikely, given Republicans' 53-47 control of the Senate, and the high two-thirds vote threshold required to find him guilty.

But both parties were girding for a tense two weeks or more of hearings that could bare the US leader's alleged wrongdoing to the American public on live television.

Pelosi attacked suggestions by Trump and some of his supporters that the Senate, as soon as the trial opens, vote to dismiss the charges. That would only require a majority vote. 

She accused Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of supporting the dismissal effort and called for him to agree to Democrat demands to subpoena witnesses and documents for the trial.

McConnell "has signed on to a dismissal resolution. A dismissal is a cover-up," Pelosi charged.

"The American people will fully understand the Senate's move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up," she added.

"Leader McConnell and the president are afraid of more facts coming to light."

Trump became only the third US president to be impeached on December 18 when the House voted to formally charge him with illicitly seeking help from Ukraine for his reelection campaign this year. 

He is charged with abuse of power for holding up aid to Ukraine to pressure them to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, currently the front-runner in the race for the Democratic party's 2020 presidential nomination.

Trump is also charged with obstruction for holding back witnesses and documents from the House impeachment investigation in defiance of Congressional subpoenas.

Trump "pressured a foreign government to target an American citizen for political gain, and at the same time withheld without justification $391 million in military aid to a vulnerable Ukraine as part of a geopolitical shakedown scheme," Democratic caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said.

"That is why Donald Trump has been impeached, because he abused his power. In America no one is above the law, not even the president."

'Witch hunt'

Trump has branded the case a "hoax" and a "witch hunt" but the White House is girding for a trial that could present damaging evidence against the US leader on national television over two weeks or more.

Pelosi had delayed delivering the articles of impeachment to pressure the Senate to agree to subpoena witnesses with direct knowledge of Trump's Ukraine actions, including his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton.

But with McConnell refusing to agree up front on the witness issue, Pelosi decided to move ahead.

The trial could open as early as Thursday, beginning with the swearing in of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as presiding judge.

Then Roberts will swear in the 100 senators to act as jurors in the case.

Unlike jurors, however, the senators will also have the power to decide for themselves the rules of the trial.

It is expected to last at least two weeks, depending on how the witness issue is ultimately decided.

In 1999, the Senate trial that followed president Bill Clinton's impeachment over the Lewinsky affair lasted five weeks. He was acquitted.

That trial included ten days of testimony from witnesses. – Rappler.com