Silence, oaths and seriousness: the Senate solemnly opened on Thursday the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the third president in the history of the United States confronted with such spoils.
“It’s a masquerade, it’s a shame,” thundered the Republican billionaire, while displaying his optimism on a rapid outcome to this episode which taints his re-election campaign.
“It should go very quickly …”, he hoped, counting on the Republican majority in the Senate to be acquitted without having to undergo long debates.
I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2020
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 on December 18 by their assembly.
“Donald John Trump, president of the United States, has been charged with serious crimes and offenses,” said Adam Schiff, who heads this team in charge of the prosecutor’s role.
The former real estate mogul “acted in a manner contrary to the trust placed in a president and subversive for the conduct of the government”, he continued in a serious, emotional tone. According to a Democratic senator, “chills” ran through the audience.
After a break, parliamentarians returned to the Chamber to take an oath before the head of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, who was constitutionally charged with presiding 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 over the Bible.
” Nothing bad “
In the greatest 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 Tuesday at 1 p.m. when the proceedings will actually begin.
“The weight of history is on our shoulders,” said the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate Chuck Schumer at the end of the hemicycle.
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 this blackmail was revealed, he obstructed the Congressional investigation, by prohibiting his advisers from testifying or providing documents, further asserts the document.
Donald Trump repeated on Thursday that he had “done nothing wrong”, again posing as the victim of a “phoney masquerade” orchestrated by the Democrats who control the House of Representatives.
The republican elected officials, 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 investigation on Thursday, “a visibly partisan performance”.
But, he continued, “the hour of the Chamber is over, it is the turn of the Senate” and “this assembly exists so that we can (…) put aside our base instincts”.
“The Integrity of the Senate”
A senior administration official said the trial should not last more than two weeks.
During this period, a 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 must 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 House Intelligence Committee, the 59-year-old elected official supervised the dismissal investigation against the president, who renamed him “Schiff the deceiver”.
To obtain a dismissal, he would need a two-thirds majority in the upper house, or rally 20 Republican senators, which seems impossible.
The Democrats nevertheless hope that the trial will bring out new embarrassing 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 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,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.