The case of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against President Donald Trump will start in the US Senate next week. Who will be the key players in that historical process and what does the planning currently look like?
The defendant: Donald J. Trump
On December 18, the 45th President of the United States became the third in American history to deal with impeachment by the House of Representatives.
He is accused of two high crimes and misdemeanours (high crimes and violations): abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The prosecutors state that he abused his office by putting pressure on the Ukrainian government to announce criminal investigations into Trumps political rivals: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his party.
His defense: Pat Cipollone
Pat Cipollone. (Photo: Reuters)
It has not yet been announced who will lead Trumps defense, but according to insiders this will probably be White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. The Republican wrote a letter to Congress last October, explaining why the White House refused any cooperation in the settlement investigation.
Trumps team and a source with knowledge of the matter informed Reuters on Friday that well-known lawyers Alan Dershowitz, who recently came into contention for his long friendship with abusive millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and Ken Starr, who was a special prosecutor during Bill's impeachment Clinton, will join Cipollone.
Trumps lawyers are expected to argue that the president has done nothing wrong and dismiss the settlement process as a politically motivated "joke", as Cipollone called it in his letter.
The prosecutors: seven Democratic members of the House
(left to right) Hakeem Jeffies, Sylvia Garcia, Jerry Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Val Demings, Zoe Lofgren and Jason Crow. (Photo: Reuters)
The Democratic President of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced the impeachment managers for the trial on Wednesday 15 January. The delegates will act as the prosecutors.
Adam Schiff (California) , chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, leads the litigant. He is a former federal prosecutor and is one of Trump's political arch enemies.
The other members:
- Hakeem Jeffries (New York) : Member of the justice committee. Chairman of the House Group. Former lawyer.
- Sylvia Garcia (Texas) : Member of the justice committee. Former lawyer and former judge.
- Jerry Nadler (New York) : Chairman of the Justice Committee. Former lawyer.
- Val Demings (Florida) : Member of the intelligence and justice committee. Former lawyer and former police chief.
- Zoe Lofgren (California) : Chairman administration committee. Former lawyer.
- Jason Crow, Colorado : Member of the Armed Forces Committee. Military veteran and former lawyer.
The court chair: John Roberts
John Roberts. (Photo: Reuters)
The supreme judge of the Supreme Court leads the lawsuit in the Senate. John Roberts is a conservative, but because he is keen to guarantee the political independence of the highest court in the country, he sometimes comes up with surprising statements. For example, in February he agreed with the four progressive judges to block a strict abortion law in Louisiana and in 2012 he did the same to defend Barack Obama's care reforms.
The 'jury chairmen': Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer
Chuck Schumer (left) and Mitch McConnell (right). (Photo: Reuters)
The President of the Republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (on the right in the photo), is known as a powerful political operator who knows the parliamentary rules to perfection. For McConnell, Trumps presidency primarily offers the opportunity to appoint as many Republican judges as possible, who will assure the party he loves in the coming decades of great social influence.
McConnell announced in advance that he is not an "impartial jury member" and will work closely with the White House. According to the majority leader, there is no chance that Trump will be sentenced by his party members. He has suggested that the trial may only consist of the pleas of the prosecutors and the defenders, followed by the final vote on the outcome.
Critics say that McConnell's attitude goes against the oath by which senators swear to deliver "impartial justice."
His Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer, wants the Senate to hear witnesses during the trial who refused to appear before the House and request documents that were withheld during the previous phase of the deposition process.
The jury: all one hundred senators
With 53 seats, Republicans have a majority in the Senate and Democrats have 45 seats. The two independent senators usually vote with the Democrats.
A simple majority suffices for decisions on the interpretation of the court case. The same applies to the question of whether more witnesses should be heard. That means the Democrats need four Republican "defectors." They focus on a small group of Republicans who are seen as moderate and seem to be open to new interrogations: Susan Collins (Maine) , Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) , Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) and Mitt Romney (Utah) .
The ward and clerk of the House of Representatives and the seven Democratic impeachment managers brought the charges against Trump on Thursday with much ceremony from the House to the Senate. (Photo: Reuters)
What does the schedule look like now?
Tuesday, January 21 : The Senate lawsuit begins. The impeachment managers of the House set out their case against Trump and the lawyers of the president serve them with a reply. Both parties are questioned by the senators.
McConnell has said that he will put a resolution on the basic rules of the process to the vote as soon as the charges against Trump have been formally submitted to the Senate. According to him, it will resemble the resolution adopted in January 1999 for the trial against Bill Clinton.
At that time, the prosecutors and defenders were given deadlines to present their case in writing and they were each given 24 hours to do so orally. The senators were given 16 hours for questioning. There was nothing in the Clinton resolution about calling for new witnesses - it was decided during a later vote. McConnell seems to want to follow that line, but has not yet committed to such a vote.
The Senate will sit six days a week during the trial. Sundays are free.
See also: Impeachment for Dummies: Why the chance of depositing Trump is small
Late January-early February: The Democrats will continue to insist on new witness hearings. The Republicans themselves may also want to call witnesses, such as Joe Biden's son Hunter, but the White House said it was unnecessary last Thursday.
Connoisseurs say the process can best extend into mid-February. Then the important first Democratic primaries are held in Iowa and New Hampshire. This can cause logistical problems for the four senators who are also presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet.