Senate to take up impeachment in a day of ceremony and formality
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[January 16, 2020]
By Richard Cowan and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate
takes formal steps on Thursday to consider the removal of U.S. President
Donald Trump on charges that he abused his power, even as key issues
such as whether witnesses will appear at his impeachment trial remain up
in the air.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Wednesday sent two formal
charges against Trump to the Republican-led Senate, clearing the way for
only the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president to begin in earnest
Ceremony, rather than substance, will mark Thursday's proceedings, with
the seven House "managers" prosecuting Trump to present the articles of
impeachment to the Senate at 12 p.m. (1700 GMT).
The Senate will invite U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to the chamber at
2 p.m. to be sworn in to preside over the trial and, eventually, to
swear in all 100 senators. It will then notify the White House of
Trump's impending trial.
House members voted 228-193, largely along party lines, to give the
Senate the task of putting the Republican president on trial on charges
of abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe
Biden and obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and documents
sought by Democratic lawmakers.
The Senate is expected to acquit Trump, keeping him in office, as none
of its 53 Republicans has voiced support for removing him, a step that
requires a two-thirds majority.
But Trump's impeachment by the House last month will stain his record
and the televised Senate trial could be uncomfortable for him as he
seeks re-election. Biden, a former vice president, is a leading
contender for the Democratic nomination to challenge him in the Nov. 3
election. Trump denies wrongdoing and has called the impeachment process
A pivotal event leading to Trump's impeachment was a July 25 call in
which he asked Ukraine's president to investigate Biden and his son
Hunter Biden for corruption and to probe a discredited theory that
Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
[to top of second column]
U.S. House of Representatives Clerk Cheryl Johnson and House
Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving carry two articles of impeachment
against U.S. President Donald Trump during a procession with the
seven U.S. House impeachment managers through Statuary Hall in the
U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan
Democrats have called that an abuse of power, saying Trump asked a
foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election for his own
benefit at the expense of American national security.
Trump is also accused by Democrats of abusing his power by
withholding $391 million in security aid to Ukraine to pressure Kiev
into conducting investigations politically beneficial to him. The
money - approved by Congress to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed
separatists - eventually was provided to Ukraine in September after
the controversy became public.
Republicans have argued that Trump's actions did not rise to the
level of impeachable offenses. They have accused Democrats of using
the Ukraine affair as a way to nullify Trump's 2016 election
One bone of contention between Democrats and Republicans has been
whether witnesses should appear in the trial, a wild card that could
affect public sentiment toward Trump.
Democrats will push to hear from witnesses during the trial,
something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has resisted,
arguing that senators should consider only the evidence amassed by
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Additional reporting
by Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Arshad Mohammed;
Editing by Peter Cooney)
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