Trump impeachment: Republicans seek delay until February

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Republicans in the US Senate are asking Democrats to delay the start of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial until February.

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President.

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

They argue this will give Trump time to prepare a defence. He is accused of inciting insurrection after supporters of his stormed the Capitol this month.

House of Representatives Democrats are ready to hand the charge to the Senate.

Trump flew to Florida as his term ended on Wednesday, skipping his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration.

On 6 January, the then president told protesters near the White House to “peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard as they prepared to march towards the US Capitol building. He also told them to “fight like hell”.

The demonstration turned ugly as a mob forced its way into the congressional complex where lawmakers were certifying Biden’s election victory.

Four protesters and a Capitol Police officer died in the mayhem.

A week later, Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice. His trial in the Senate will be the only one ever to have taken place after a president has left office.

What are Republicans asking for?

On a call to his fellow Republican senators on Thursday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he had asked that House Democrats to hold off sending the single impeachment article to the Senate until 28 January – a move which would kick-start the trial’s first phase.

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Under this timetable, Trump would then have two weeks – until 11 February – to submit his pre-trial defence. Arguments would be expected to begin in mid-February.

Republicans, who as of Wednesday no longer control the Senate, need the new Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer to agree to the idea.

McConnell said in a statement: “Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas told Reuters news agency that he and fellow Republicans had been discussing the need to allow Trump “due process”.

Ten Republicans sided with House Democrats in impeaching the outgoing president on 14 January.

Even though Democrats now narrowly control the Senate, they would need the support of at least 17 Republicans in order to convict Trump, because a two-thirds vote is required.

A handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to conviction, but most have either cast doubt on the legality of trying a president after he has left office, or said the process would be too divisive.

Will Democrats go along with this schedule?

Schumer’s office has not yet released a statement on McConnell’s proposal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to answer journalists’ questions on Thursday about when she would submit the charge.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Photo: GETTY via AFP

She said Trump did not deserve a “get out of jail card” just because he had left office.

Senator Chris Coons said fellow Democrats might be receptive to a delay in the impeachment trial if Republicans helped push through Biden’s Cabinet nominees.

“If not,” the Delaware senator told CNN, “you’ll quickly find Democrats frustrated and insisting that we move ahead with the accountability that could be delivered by an impeachment trial.”

Where is Trump now?

Trump left the White House on Wednesday morning and flew on Air Force One to his golf club in Palm Beach, Florida.

His motorcade passed hundreds of well-wishers before he arrived at Mar-a-Lago minutes before Biden took the oath of office in Washington DC just before noon.

Trump is expected to live at the resort he calls his “Winter White House”, despite concerns from some neighbours about the increased traffic and heightened security an ex-president would bring to their doorstep.

(File photo) US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, in September 2020.

Photo: AFP

He is planning to maintain a tight-knit coterie of former White House aides in Florida.

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According to reports, he wants to raise $2bn (£1.46bn) for his presidential library and has floated the idea of forming a new political party called the Patriot Party.

Who will defend Trump?

Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him in his Senate impeachment trial, according to Senator Lindsey Graham.

According to his website, Bowers was a special counsel on voting matters at the US Department of Justice under President George W Bush.

He also served as counsel to two former governors of South Carolina, Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford.

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