House Democrats will on Monday evening deliver an article of impeachment to the Senate charging Donald Trump with “incitement to insurrection” for his role in the deadly attack on the US Capitol on January 6.
In a move that will trigger the first impeachment trial of a former US president, House members who will act as de facto prosecutors will hold a procession ceremony to present the article to the upper chamber of Congress.
Jamie Raskin, the Democratic House member from Maryland who will be the lead impeachment manager, will then read the article on the Senate floor. That will set the stage for a trial that will culminate in senators determining whether to convict Mr Trump for inciting the violent mob that staged the siege.
Mr Trump earlier this month became the first president in US history to be impeached twice, after all House Democrats and 10 Republicans in the lower chamber voted to charge him with inciting an insurrection. Only two other presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — were impeached once, but neither was removed from office.
Mr Trump was first impeached in 2019 over his efforts to persuade the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden. He was acquitted on two articles of impeachment, after a Senate trial that saw just one Republican, Mitt Romney, vote to convict the president.
The former president’s second impeachment trial threatens to overshadow the early days of Mr Biden’s administration. Mr Biden, the former vice-president, was sworn in as the 46th US president last week and has already proposed a number of cabinet nominees as well as an ambitious $1.9tn coronavirus stimulus package.
At the end of last week, Chuck Schumer, the new Senate majority leader, said he would structure the Senate trial in a way that would allow two weeks for the upper chamber to first consider Mr Biden’s cabinet appointments and debate the stimulus bill.
While senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, the trial will not start in earnest until February 9.
Patrick Leahy, the Democratic senator from Vermont and president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over the trial rather than John Roberts, the chief justice of the US Supreme Court who oversaw the first Trump impeachment trial.
Mr Leahy said in a statement on Monday that the president pro tempore had “historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents” and vowed to “not waver from [his] constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws”.
It remains unclear whether Senate Republicans will vote to convict the former president this time round. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has said he was open to convicting the former president, something that could result in Mr Trump being barred from holding future public office or receiving benefits enjoyed by other former presidents, such as an annual pension or Secret Service protection.
Two-thirds of the 100-member Senate needs to vote to convict in order for Mr Trump to be sentenced. Because the upper chamber of Congress is split 50-50, that means 17 Republicans would need to vote against the president in order for him to be convicted.
Mr Romney told CNN on Sunday that Mr Trump had committed an “impeachable offence” on January 6, when he encouraged mobs of his supporters to descend on the Capitol.
“I’ll of course hear what the lawyers have to say for each side. But I think it’s pretty clear that the effort is constitutional,” Mr Romney said. “I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offence. If not, what is?”
A Monmouth University poll released on Monday afternoon showed a majority of Americans, 56 per cent, approved of the House impeaching Mr Trump. A slightly smaller share, 52 per cent, said they wanted the Senate to convict the former president. However, the poll showed a sharp partisan split, with just 13 per cent of Republicans saying they approved of the House’s actions.