Democrats sent Donald Trump’s indictment to the US Senate on Monday evening, marking the official opening of his historic impeachment trial for “incitement to insurgency” in the deadly violence perpetrated by his supporters under the same dome du Capitole, January 6.
From Tuesday, the Senate will officially summon the former US president for this trial, which will not start until February 9, however.
Senators will be sworn in on the same day to become jurors in this doubly historic procedure: Donald Trump is the first President of the United States to fall twice under the influence of impeachment. And he will be the first to stand trial after leaving the White House.
In solemn silence, the nine “prosecutors”, elected appointed by the Democratic President of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, on Monday evening crossed the long corridors adorned with statues and paintings stormed by pro-Trump protesters he less than three weeks ago.
Then their leader, Jamie Raskin, read the indictment for “inciting insurgency” in the Senate Chamber, his words resounding with all the more force as everyone here, elected officials and senators. , were witnesses, and victims, of the violence.
“Donald John Trump” incited “violence” and he “seriously endangered the security of the United States and that of its institutions”, declared the elected Democrat, citing in particular his “false statements” denying the victory of his rival Joe Biden in the presidential election in November.
The Republican billionaire is accused of inciting his supporters to launch an assault on the seat of Congress while parliamentarians certified the Democrat’s victory.
“You will never take back our country by being weak. You have to show strength and you have to be strong, ”he told protesters shortly before the Capitol attack, which left five dead.
A week, to the day, after the assault, the House of Representatives had voted his impeachment – or impeachment – on January 13.
This violence has upset America and pushed several big names in the Republic to denounce the behavior of the stormy billionaire.
But a Senate conviction appears unlikely at this stage, with the real estate mogul, still very popular with his constituents, still counting on key supporters in the upper house.
Democrats now control Congress. But their majority is extremely fragile in the Senate: they occupy 50 seats against 50 for the Republicans. In the event of a perfect tie in a vote, Vice President Kamala Harris has the power to tip the scales on the Democratic side.
But they will need 67 votes to condemn Donald Trump. A goal that seems difficult to achieve.
Even though the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has not ruled out voting for his conviction, he does not intend to influence his troops publicly.
“I find this trial stupid,” Senator Marco Rubio thundered on Fox on Sunday. “The country is already in flames and it is like pouring oil on this fire.”
Others even hope to block the holding of the trial, saying it would be unconstitutional to try a former president.
“Ridiculous,” retorted Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Because this “theory […] would amount to giving a constitutional privilege to all the presidents”.
A great critic of Donald Trump, Senator Mitt Romney is one of the few Republicans to support the procedure, without however commenting on the meaning of his vote.
This ex-presidential candidate was the only Republican to convict Mr. Trump during his first impeachment trial, in February 2020, in the Ukraine case.
The president was then acquitted.
Opening February 9
This time it is Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, pro tempore President of the Senate, who will preside over the trial, not Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. A traditional choice for impeachment proceedings other than the President of the United States, said the senator, but which made some Republicans cringe.
The postponement of the opening of the trial to February 9 is the result of an agreement between Republicans and Democrats.
On the one hand, it allows more time for the Republican billionaire to prepare his defense. And on the other hand, he’s giving Joe Biden more time to get his presidency back on track, seeing more members of his cabinet confirmed by the Senate and, he hopes, first big bills passed in the Congress.
Joe Biden has so far shown discretion regarding the impeachment process for his predecessor. “I think it has to happen,” he told CNN on Monday.
Just before the ceremony, the Senate approved the appointment of Janet Yellen as Minister of Economy and Finance. The confirmation vote for future US foreign minister Antony Blinken will take place on Tuesday.