Senate introduces impeachment charges, officially begins trial of President Donald Trump

Trump impeachment
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate floor Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, ahead of the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. (Kevin Dietsch/UPI photo)

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Two articles of impeachment were introduced in the Senate Thursday, formally marking the start of a historic proceeding that could potentially remove President Donald Trump from office.

The seven Democratic managers tasked with presenting the evidence at trial read the articles on the Senate floor. They accuse Trump of abusing his power by trying to press Ukraine to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and obstructing the House investigation that followed.

Although they mark the official opening of the trial, Thursday’s activities are entirely procedural. The meat of the trial won’t begin until Tuesday.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will also be sworn in later Thursday to preside over the trial. Once he’s seated, the chief justice will swear in all 100 U.S. Senators to be impartial jurors. Finally, the Senate will formally notify the White House and “summon the president to answer the articles and send his counsel.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set the stage Wednesday by signing off on the charges and having them delivered to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

After the preliminary steps are completed, the Senate will table an initial resolution outlining how it will move forward with the trial. McConnell has said that measure will establish periods for arguments by House managers and Trump’s legal team, and as well as set times for senators to submit written questions.

Still undecided is whether witnesses will be allowed to testify at trial. McConnell and his Republican majority caucus are opposed. Pelosi and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have lobbied for weeks that the Senate trial include witnesses and new evidence that’s emerged since the House passed the articles Dec. 18.

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Democrats need four Republicans to cross the aisle in a vote to include witnesses. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has said he wants to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton and would vote for him to testify, while Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are also viewed as potential swing votes.

A conviction on either charge, which is considered unlikely by most experts, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.

Earlier Thursday, the Government Accountability Office said in a report the Trump administration broke U.S. law last year when it withheld Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine — the issue that ultimately spawned the impeachment investigation.

Reporting by Don Jacobson

United Press International is an international news agency whose newswires, photo, news film, and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations for most of the 20th century.

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