By signing an “oath book”, senators opened the third impeachment trial in the history of the United States. Debates will begin on Tuesday January 21.
Silence, oaths and gravity.
The Senate officially opened Thursday, January 16, the dismissal trial of Donald Trump, the third in US history. “It’s a masquerade, it’s a shame,” thundered the Republican billionaire, while showing his optimism on a rapid outcome to this episode which taints his re-election campaign. “It should go very quickly …”, he declared, counting on the republican majority of the Senate to be acquitted without having to undergo long debates.
His trial, which divides both the political class and the country, began when seven elected Democrats from the House of Representatives appeared in the Senate to read the indictment adopted by their assembly on December 18.
“Donald John Trump, President of the United States, has been charged with serious crimes and offenses,” said Adam Schiff, who heads the team charged with the role of prosecutor. The former real estate tycoon “acted in a manner contrary to the confidence placed in a president and subversive for the conduct of the government,” he said in a serious, emotional tone. “The weight of history is on our shoulders” After a break, parliamentarians returned to the Chamber to take an oath before the Chief of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Roberts, charged with the Constitution to preside over the trial . They collectively swore to administer justice “impartially in accordance with the Constitution and the laws”, before the highest magistrate of the United States who, draped in his black gown, took the same oath, hand on the Bible. In the utmost silence, the senators then signed, in groups of four, an “oath book” to write their commitment black and white. The hearing was then adjourned until 1 p.m. Tuesday (7 p.m. in Paris), when the debates will actually begin.
“The weight of history is on our shoulders,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer at the end of the chamber.
Donald Trump, who is not expected to appear in person, is facing two counts: abuse of power and obstructing the smooth running of Congress.
According to the indictment, he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his potential rival in the presidential election in November, and exerted pressure to win his case, in particular by freezing crucial military aid for this country at war with Russia.
Once the blackmail was revealed, he obstructed the Congressional investigation, by prohibiting his advisers from testifying or providing documents, the document said.
Donald Trump repeated on Thursday that he had “done nothing wrong,” again posing as the victim of a “phony masquerade” orchestrated by the Democrats, who control the House of Representatives.
The elected republicans, who have a majority in the Senate, have so far united around him. Their head of the Upper House, Mitch McConnell, again criticized the House of Representatives’ investigation Thursday morning “a visibly partisan performance”. But, he continued, “the hour of the House is over, it is the turn of the Senate” and “this assembly exists so that we can (…) put aside our base instincts”.
Trump says he did “nothing wrong”
A senior administration official said the trial should not last more than two weeks. During this period, the hundred senators will have to attend the hearings, without leaving the room and respecting the utmost silence. If they have questions for the parties, they should put them in writing to John Roberts, who will read them aloud.
Adam Schiff, one of Donald Trump’s beasts, will lay the charge. Head of the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives, the 59-year-old elected official oversaw the investigation against the president, who renamed him “Schiff the Cunning”. To obtain dismissal, he would need a two-thirds majority in the Upper House, or rally 20 Republican senators, which seems impossible.
The Democrats still hope that the trial will bring out embarrassing new elements for Donald Trump, and demand the hearing of four close advisers to the president.
“The integrity of the Senate is also on trial,” said Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, hoping that her Republican colleagues will accept the request.
Chance of the calendar: an independent body of control of the government brought water to their mill on Thursday, by estimating that the White House had “broken the law” by suspending the funds intended for Ukraine at the heart of the scandal. “This further reinforces the need for new documents and witnesses at the trial,” commented the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.