Senate impeachment trial of President Trump begins

President Donald Trump is the third U.S. president to undergo an impeachment trial in American history. (Courtesy of The White House)President Donald Trump is the third U.S. president to undergo an impeachment trial in American history. (Courtesy of The White House)

Madison Bailey, Correspondent

The impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, the third impeachment trial ever of a U.S. president, officially began when the impeachment articles were read in the Senate and Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 16.

The trial reconvened on Tuesday, Jan. 21 to debate the proposed ground rules for the proceedings introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell’s proposal allows for both the House of Representatives and the President each to present their arguments for a “period of time not to exceed 24 hours, over up to 3 session days”. 

Initially, his proposal also required evidence to be submitted in the record by a majority vote, allowing Republicans to potentially block evidence collected by the House impeachment inquiry.

Later, McConnell made changes to the proposal allowing evidence to be automatically submitted into the Senate record after Republican senators raised concerns about the provision.

“In 1999, the Senate unanimously agreed on a basic trial structure that was fair to all parties,” said McConnell. “Today, we must rise to the occasion and preserve that bipartisan precedent. Our resolution sets up the same basic steps. Fair is fair.”

During the trial, the members of the Senate are required to remain silent in accordance with trial rules while the House managers and White House lawyers debate. The trial is expected to take place for up to three or four weeks.

The two impeachment articles charge Trump for abuse of power as well as obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives approved both impeachment articles in December. 

The House vote total for the abuse of power article was 230 to 197, followed by a vote total of 229 to 198 for the obstruction of Congress article. Three representatives did not vote, and one representative, Tulsi Gabbard, voted present for both articles. 

After the approval of the impeachment articles, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held onto the articles for several weeks in order to ensure a “fair trial.” 

Pelosi said she allotted this time for a handful of reasons, including providing enough time for the House to try and convince the Senate to approve of witnesses for the trial as well as giving the public time to see and understand the impeachment articles.

McConnell said he plans to work with the White House directly on the impeachment. McConnell explained how the request of including witnesses in the impeachment trial should be introduced after both the House and Trump’s lawyers are allowed to give their opening statements.

The Senate must secure a two-thirds majority in support of a guilty verdict in order to remove Trump from office, which means 67 members must support a guilty verdict. Currently, the Senate is composed of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 independents.

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