Trump on trial: impeachment looms

Paul Handley, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 11 2019 06:48 AM

US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to Pennsylvania from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, US, Dec. 10, 2019. Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

WASHINGTON — Democrats unveiled 2 articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, setting the stage for his becoming only the third US leader to be impeached and put on trial in the Senate.

Trump was accused of abusing his powers and obstruction of Congress, after a 2-month probe uncovered evidence that he withheld military aid and a summit with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky as he demanded that Kiev announce investigations into possible 2020 election foe Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Trump has denied wrongdoing, labeling the impeachment inquiry a "Witch Hunt." This is what happens next.


On Wednesday and Thursday the House Judiciary Committee will debate the articles. While Trump is entitled send lawyers, the White House signaled Tuesday it would stay away from House impeachment proceedings.

That schedule suggests that the committee could vote by Friday to send the articles of impeachment to the full House. As Democrats have a strong majority on the committee, passage is virtually assured.


The House of Representatives will debate the articles of impeachment. 

In the case of president Bill Clinton in 1998-99, the chamber debated 4 articles for more than 13 hours over 2 days, and voted on the second day to approve them.

Debate of Trump's 2 articles could also span 2 days. 

Approval requires a simple majority, and Democrats hold a 233 to 197 advantage over Republicans, making passage assured: Trump will be formally charged, or impeached.


A vote to impeach would send the case to a Senate trial of a sitting president for only the third time in US history.

The trial would likely take place in January after Congress returns from a 2-week Christmas break.

In his official 2020 calendar released last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left January blank -- an indicator that the impeachment trial is expected to take up much of the month.

McConnell would control the process and could determine how long it lasts, limiting or expanding the time for testimony and arguments. Clinton's trial lasted six weeks.

John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, would preside, and the 100 senators would sit as the jury.

Representatives from the House would act as prosecutors, with the president's attorneys presenting his defense.

Convicting Trump and forcing his removal from office is believed unlikely. It would require two-thirds of the Senate, and Republicans, who so far remain firmly behind the president, hold 53 of the 100 seats.

Politics will have a big influence on the final vote, and with presidential and congressional elections looming in November 2020, lawmakers have to consider where their constituents stand on impeachment.

© Agence France-Presse