Trump impeachment trial starts Tuesday as President brands process 'hoax'

16 January 2020, 09:42 | Updated: 16 January 2020, 09:46

The trial against Trump will start on Tuesday
The trial against Trump will start on Tuesday. Picture: PA

An impeachment trial against Donald Trump will begin next week, after the articles of impeachment were formerly delivered to the US Senate

The President is formally facing trial after articles of impeachment were handed over to the American Senate, setting the stage for only the third trial to remove a sitting president in US history.

The House of Representatives voted largely on party lines in December for the impeachment trial, with 228 Democrats voting in favour, and one Democrat joining 192 Republicans to vote against.

Mr Trump branded the process a "hoax" and claimed it was all a "con job" even as fresh details emerged about his efforts in Ukraine.

He said: "Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats. All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!"

The US president is accused of abusing his office by asking the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of his political rival Joe Biden.

The articles of impeachment against President Trump
The articles of impeachment against President Trump. Picture: PA

"This president will be held accountable," said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Today we will make history," Ms Pelosi said as she signed the impeachment documents, using multiple pens to hand out and mark the moment before the documents were marched into the Senate by the House prosecutors, in the "engrossment procedure".

The documents were formally marched from Congress to the Senate
The documents were formally marched from Congress to the Senate. Picture: PA

The split reflected the deeply divided nation at the start of this presidential election year.

It came one month after the House impeached Mr Trump, alleging he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage.

Mr Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress' ensuing probe.

Mr Trump's political campaign dismissed the House effort as "just a failed attempt to politically damage President Trump leading up to his re-election".

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was "sad" to have to send the documents but it was "progress"
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was "sad" to have to send the documents but it was "progress". Picture: PA

The Senate will transform itself into an impeachment court on Thursday. The Constitution calls for chief justice John Roberts to preside at the trial, administering the oath to senators who will serve as jurors and swear to deliver "impartial justice".

Technically, the House was simply notifying the Senate of its delivery of the articles, with a more formal presentation Thursday. Opening arguments are to begin next Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.

The top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy of California, said Americans will look back on this "sad saga" that tried to remove the president from office with the "weakest case".

The president's team expects acquittal with a Senate trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior administration officials.

That is far shorter than the last presidential impeachment trial, of Bill Clinton, in 1999, or the first one, of Andrew Johnson, in 1868.

The seven-member prosecution team will be led by the chairmen of the House impeachment proceedings, Adam Schiff of the intelligence committee and Jerry Nadler of the judiciary committee, two of Ms Pelosi's top lieutenants.

Ahead of Wednesday's session, Mr Schiff released new records from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, about the Ukraine strategy, including an exchange with another man about surveilling later-fired ambassador Maria Yovanovitch.

Mr Trump's trial will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history, and it comes against the backdrop of a politically divided nation in an election year.

Senate Republicans signalled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Mr Trump, as he himself has suggested.

In a statement before the House started its work, the White House accused Mrs Pelosi of leading a "sham" which will "prove she is focused on politics instead of the American people".

It added: "The Speaker lied when she claimed this was urgent and vital to national security because when the articles passed, she held them for an entire month in an egregious effort to garner political support. She failed and the naming of these managers does not change a single thing.

"President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated.

"In the meantime, after President Trump signs the historic China trade deal greatly benefiting the people of this country, he will continue working and winning for all Americans, while the Democrats will continue only working against the president."