On Thursday, after lawmakers in the House of Representatives delivered the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, the Senate officially opened the trial against him — only the third such presidential prosecution in history.
With the various ceremonial steps being taken this week, including the swearing in of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who then administered an oath to the senators, Trump’s impeachment trial is expected to effectively begin on Tuesday after the holiday weekend.
Trump, 73, has officially been accused of abuse of power and obstruction in connection with the Ukraine scandal.
A months-long investigation in the House broadly corroborated the case against him: that he withheld support of Ukraine’s government to pressure leaders there to investigate his political rivals.
Still, Trump has adamantly insisted he did nothing wrong and on Wednesday labeled his impeachment a “hoax.”
The trial will determine whether he is convicted on the charges and removed from office.
“President Trump warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States,” Rep. Adam Schiff said earlier Thursday in reading out the impeachment articles in the Senate, according to The New York Times.
Schiff, a familiar Trump foe who led part of the House investigation into his conduct with Ukraine, is one of seven House managers for the trial. An impeachment manager is analogous to a prosecutor.
Trump’s conviction would require the votes of nearly two dozen Republican senators. But many of them have said they are reluctant to proceed with a case against the president, contending his impeachment amounts to a revenge scheme by liberals following the 2016 election.
No president has ever been removed from office over impeachment.
Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both acquitted after they were impeached, while President Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached and face trial for his part in the Watergate scandal.
House Democrats say their investigation found Trump had been withholding some $400 million in military aid from Ukraine while pressuring Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to dig into former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s family as well as probe an unfounded conspiracy theory about Ukrainian tampering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Democrats also say the Trump administration tried to cover up wrongdoing, moving transcripts of a Trump phone call with Zelensky in July and refusing to send top officials to testify before House investigators.
Biden is the front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
Trump has repeatedly claimed he’s done nothing wrong while his administration has tried to brand the impeachment as a Democratic “witch hunt.”
The House investigation continues to produce documents that underlines the case against Trump, which Democrats say strengthens their call for the need to include new material in the impeachment trial. It remains unclear if the trial will include new witnesses and evidence — something Republican senators have resisted.
Separately on Thursday, a government watchdog group said the Trump administration’s decision to withhold Ukraine’s aid was illegal because it circumvented Congress, according to CNN.
Trump has publicly complained about what he calls an “unfair” impeachment since the investigation began last September.
“Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?” he tweeted on Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has argued otherwise, telling George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week on Sunday that Trump would always have the asterisk of impeachment attached to his presidency regardless of whether he’s removed from office.
“This president is impeached for life,” Pelosi said, adding, “We’ve done our job. We have defended the Constitution of the United States. We would hope that the Senate would do that as well.”