President Donald Trump is expected to go on trial in the US Senate next week for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after his impeachment by the House of Representatives in December, last year.
There are few fixed rules on how an impeached president is tried, but based on the two previous occasions, in 1868 and 1999, here is how the process is expected to unfold.
Delivering the articles
On Wednesday the House of Representatives will vote on sending the articles of impeachment, or formal charges, to the Senate. They will also name the House “impeachment managers” who will prosecute the case against Trump.
Later Wednesday, or possibly early Thursday, the House sergeant at arms and the impeachment managers will march in procession from the House carrying the articles in two blue folders to the Senate side of the US Capitol.
Senators then submitted questions to the chief justice, more than 150 in all, to be posed to both prosecutors and the defense
In the previous cases, as the House managers read out the charges against the president, the Senate sergeant at arms admonished the senators who sit in judgment.
“All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment,” he said.
Then the White House is officially informed: The US leader is to stand trial.
The next step is for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to be sworn in to preside over the trial, where he will act as referee and, in the case of votes that are tied, cast the tie-breaker.
Roberts will then swear in the 100 senators, who are the jury, but who also, like judges, control the trial format.
Senate chief Mitch McConnell said the senators will meet probably on Tuesday, January 21 to establish the format. Republicans already have a draft proposal, which McConnell said is “very very similar” to that of the Clinton trial.
Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial
The Clinton trial lasted five weeks. Clinton did not appear, and Trump is not expected to appear on his own behalf, but instead send a team of lawyers to defend him.
The Clinton case opened with the defense formally denying, point by point, the articles of impeachment.
Then, with the House managers going first, each side took three days to present their argument.
Senators then submitted questions to the chief justice, more than 150 in all, to be posed to both prosecutors and the defense.
The high two-thirds super-majority required to convict a president virtually assures Trump will be acquitted
At that point in Clinton’s trial, 17 days after the rules were set, the Senate debated two issues privately: one to dismiss the charges, and one to call witnesses. Each issue could be decided by a simple majority vote.
Trump’s trial in Senate & possible consequences
Both issues could also arise at the same point in Trump’s trial. Trump has already called for the Senate to dismiss, and the House managers have demanded witnesses — several current and former senior White House aides — be subpoenaed.
If Republicans remain united, their 53-47 seat control of the Senate means they can dismiss the case if they want, or simply reject the witness issue and move immediately for a final vote on the charges against Trump.
The high two-thirds super-majority required to convict a president virtually assures Trump will be acquitted.
In the Clinton case, the motion to dismiss was rejected, but witnesses were called. Three were deposed in private, and excerpts of their recorded testimony were then presented to the Senate.
That added nearly two weeks to the Clinton trial, before the Senate finally voted on the charges, acquitting him of both.
Even though there is little to none possibility of a two-thirds majority going against Trump in the Republican-held Senate, the trial itself is expected to have a serious effect in the ‘court of the people’, which shall announce its ‘verdict’ in the upcoming Presidential elections.
The charges of (i)Abuse of power and (ii)Obstruction of Congress have contributed a lot to the tide of public opinion turning against Trump. According to several nation-wide polls, approximately half of the US population is in favour of Trump’s removal from office.