House to send Trump impeachment article to Senate, triggering trial

Washington (AFP) –

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The US House of Representatives is to deliver a single article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday accusing Donald Trump of inciting the storming of the Capitol, triggering the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House impeachment managers will present the article of impeachment to the secretary of the Senate in a formal ceremony at 6:55 pm (2355 GMT).

At the same time, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland will read the charges on the Senate floor, where Trump continues to enjoy the significant support from Republican senators.

"We must not give Donald Trump a pass for inciting a deadly insurrection on our Capitol," Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

"The House has done its job by impeaching Trump, and now the Senate must complete the task by ensuring that he is never again in a position to directly harm the United States."

The Senate trial of the 74-year-old former president, who was impeached by the House for a second time on January 13, is to begin the week of February 8.

Democrats and Republicans agreed to delay the trial to allow Trump to prepare his defense and for the Senate to confirm President Joe Biden's cabinet appointees.

Biden, 78, has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment, eager to put Trump in the rear-view mirror and make progress in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and reviving the economy.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president believes "it's up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former president accountable."

- 'Flaming fire' -

Ten Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in the House in voting to impeach Trump for inciting the crowd that stormed the Capitol on January 6 while Congress was certifying Biden's November 3 election victory.

Five people died in the mayhem including a police officer and a protester who was shot by Capitol police.

The House also impeached Trump a year ago for seeking to dig up political dirt on Biden from Ukraine but he was acquitted by the Senate, where only a single Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, voted for conviction.

While more Republican senators may to vote to convict Trump this time, it seems unlikely at least 17 of them will do so.

Democrats control 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber and a two-thirds majority is needed to convict Trump, who remains a powerful figure in the Republican Party.

If Trump is convicted, the Senate could bar him from holding office again, a move that would prevent him from running for president in 2024.

A number of prominent Republicans have denounced the impeachment trial.

"I think the trial is stupid," Florida Senator Marco Rubio told Fox News Sunday.

"We already have a flaming fire in this country and it's like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top."

Rubio acknowledged Trump "bears some responsibility for what happened" at the Capitol.

But to "stir it up again" could only hurt the country, said Rubio, who lost to Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

- 'If not, what is? -

Other Republicans argued the Senate has no authority to put a private citizen -- as Trump now is -- on trial.

But Romney told CNN "the preponderance of legal opinion is that an impeachment trial after a president has left office is constitutional."

Romney said he believed "that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense. If not, what is?"

Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed he had won the election and summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6 for a rally that coincided with the certification of the results by Congress.

Following a speech by Trump, thousands of his supporters stormed the Capitol, fighting pitched battles with police and sending lawmakers into hiding.

Trump is facing potential legal jeopardy on numerous fronts but the Supreme Court on Monday shut down lawsuits claiming he violated constitutional bars against a president accepting income from foreign sources.

These cases stemmed from the US Constitution's "emoluments clause" prohibiting public officials from receiving gifts, payments or titles from foreign states without Congressional permission.

Plaintiffs in the most visible lawsuit alleged the clause was violated when foreign delegations patronized the Trump International Hotel, near the White House, in an effort to curry favor with the Republican president.