dpa/GNA – US Senate leaders have agreed to delay the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump to the week of February 8.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated the move would give President Joe Biden more time to move forward with his early policy agenda as he announced the date Friday.
Trump is facing an unprecedented second impeachment trial based on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the deadly storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters on January 6.
“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us, but healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability and that is what this trial will provide,” Schumer said.
Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives, said earlier the article of impeachment would be sent to the Senate on Monday, which would have triggered the start of the trial according to impeachment rules.
But the Senate leaders agreed to modify the rules by having the impeachment article delivered on Monday evening and then delaying the actual start by two weeks.
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell had sought a February start to give Trump’s team more time to prepare a defence.
Biden indicated Friday that he supported a February start to give “some time to get the administration up and running” as an impeachment trial could bring the Senate’s regular business to a halt.
The House impeached Trump last week, accusing him of inciting insurrection. A violent mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol just after he used fiery rhetoric at a rally to promote baseless claims of election fraud.
The attack, which sought to halt lawmakers’ certification of now-President Biden’s victory in the November election, left at least five people, including a police officer, dead.
In the Senate, a two-thirds majority is needed to convict. It is unclear how many Republicans might join the Democrats in such a vote, which could also bar Trump from holding office again.
While McConnell has sought to delay the trial, he has also explicitly blamed Trump for the riot and left open the possibility of him voting to convict Trump.
“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell, top Republican in Congress, said earlier this week.
Trump, whose term ended on Wednesday, would be the first president to ever face an impeachment trial after leaving office.
Some Senate Republicans have cast doubt on the legality of trying a former president.
“I have heard some of my Republican colleagues argue that this trial would be unconstitutional because Donald Trump is no longer in office, an argument that has been roundly repudiated,” Schumer said from the Senate floor earlier on Friday.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president – or any official – could commit a heinous crime against our country and then be permitted to resign so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disbar them from future office.”