Trump impeachment: What's next after the House vote

Washington - A trial in the Senate will not happen until Trump is out of office, but it could still prevent him from running for president again

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signs the article of impeachment, alongside impeachment managers after the US House of Representatives voted to impeach the US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol. — AFP
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signs the article of impeachment, alongside impeachment managers after the US House of Representatives voted to impeach the US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol. — AFP


Published: Thu 14 Jan 2021, 6:34 AM

Last updated: Thu 14 Jan 2021, 6:55 AM

President Donald Trump has been impeached by the House days before leaving office, becoming the first American president to be impeached twice.

The previous three impeachments — those of Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump — took months before a final vote, including investigations in the House and hearings. This time it only took a week after Trump encouraged a crowd of his supporters who attacked the US Capitol.

Democrats and 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump on one charge: “incitement of insurrection.”

Even though the trial won’t happen until Trump is already out of office, it could still have the effect of preventing him from running for president again.

A look at next steps:

Sending to the Senate

Once the House votes to impeach, the speaker of the House can send the article or articles over to the Senate immediately — or she can wait a while. Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send them, but many Democrats in her caucus have urged her to do so immediately.

Pelosi has already appointed nine impeachment managers to argue the case against Trump in a Senate trial, a sign that she will send them sooner rather than later.

Once the articles are sent over — that is usually done with an official walk from the House to the Senate — then the majority leader of the Senate must start the process of having a trial.

The Senate schedule

The Senate is not scheduled to be in session until January 19, which could be McConnell’s last day as Senate leader. Once Vice-President Kamala Harris is sworn in, making her the president of the Senate, and Georgia’s two Democratic senators are also sworn in, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will take charge and determine how the trial will proceed.

McConnell said he will not bring the Senate back on an emergency basis to start the trial, so the earliest it could begin would be Tuesday. That means the trial is certain to take place after Trump has already left office.

Senate politics

If McConnell voted to convict, other Republicans would surely follow. But no GOP senators have said how they will vote, and two-thirds of the Senate is needed.

Still, some Republicans have told Trump to resign, including Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and few are defending him.

Other Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive. In the House, 10 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump. Every single House Republican voted against Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.

Trump’s future

If the Senate were to convict, lawmakers could then take a separate vote on whether to disqualify Trump from holding future office.

Schumer said on Wednesday: “Make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanours; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”

Only a majority of senators would be needed to ban him from future office, unlike the two-thirds needed to convict.

Different charges, different impeachments

This impeachment trial is likely to differ from the last one in many ways.

The House charges in 2019 on Trump’s dealings with the president of Ukraine, whom he urged to investigate Biden, came after a lengthy investigation and testimony from multiple government officials.

This time, Democrats felt there was little need for an investigation — the invasion of the Capitol played out on live television, and most members of Congress were in the building as it happened.

Trump’s speech beforehand, in which he told his supporters to “fight like hell” against the election results, was also televised as Congress prepared to officially count the votes.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the last House impeachment team, said the insurrection at the Capitol was an “impeachable offense committed in broad daylight, in which the whole country was a witness.”

He said the lightning-fast impeachment “was required by the exigency of the circumstances, and also made possible by the very nature of the crime.”

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