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Trump impeachment trial possibly days away as Democrats meet

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-15 09:24
US President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, US, Jan 9, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON-The Senate trial of US President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction could open within days as House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi convened Democrats early on Tuesday to discuss sending impeachment charges to the Senate.

Pelosi appeared ready to move ahead after holding onto the articles of impeachment since they were passed on December 18. In the meantime, House Democrats have tried to pressure the Republican-controlled Senate to agree to subpoena witnesses with direct knowledge of what Trump is charged with: Illicitly seeking help from Ukraine for his 2020 reelection campaign.

But with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to agree up front on the witness issue, Pelosi is now expected to forward the case without a deal and see the president placed on trial by next week.

Pelosi's House Democratic caucus was expected to discuss the schedule for a full vote in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, on forwarding the case.

The Democratic representatives also were likely to decide who will comprise their team of impeachment managers to argue the case against Trump in the Senate, the upper chamber.

Once the House forwards the charges, the Senate is obliged to begin trial proceedings within one day.

On the first day, senators will decide the rules of the historic trial.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will then be sworn in to preside. In turn, he will swear in the 100 senators to preside as judges and jury over Trump's fate.

Republican Senator John Cornyn told The Hill news website that he expects all that could happen this week, and that opening arguments in the trial could take place as early as Tuesday, Jan 21, after Monday's federal holiday.

"That's what it feels like right now," Cornyn said.

Trump's Republican Party members hold a solid majority of seats in the Senate and are expected to exonerate him.

But the witness issue remains a point of contention.

Democrats want at least four current and former top Trump aides to appear at the trial. Trump barred them from testifying in the House impeachment investigation.

They also want documents related to the charges that Trump refused to hand over to the House probe.

The witnesses and documents, Democrats believe, could deliver more concrete evidence that Trump abused his powers for personal political gain and obstructed the congressional investigation.

But McConnell, backed by the Republicans' 53-47 Senate majority, said he won't agree on the issue before the trial opens.

In this case, with defendant Trump's own Republican Party in control of the Senate, which sets the rules for the case, Pelosi has little real leverage outside of public pressure.

Democrats are hoping that three or more Republican senators will break ranks to insist hearing from the witnesses.

"House Democrats have already done enough damage to precedent, to national unity, and to our institutions of government," McConnell said in a statement on Monday.

"The Senate will not be sucked into this precedent-breaking path."

Agencies Via Xinhua

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