Trump impeachment trial to focus on his attacks on election

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., signs the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., signs the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: Alex Brandon

Credit: Alex Brandon

President Donald Trump’s impeachment now heads toward a historic Senate trial, perhaps as soon as next week

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's historic second impeachment could go to trial as soon as Inauguration Day, with U.S. senators serving not only as jurors but as shaken personal witnesses and victims of the deadly siege of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure.

In pursuing conviction, House impeachment managers said Thursday they will be making the case that Trump's incendiary rhetoric hours before the bloody attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but rather part of an escalating campaign to overturn the November election results. It culminated, they will argue, in the Republican president's rally cry to "fight like hell" as Congress was tallying the Electoral College votes to confirm he'd lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

The trial could begin shortly after Biden takes the oath of office next Wednesday, but some Democrats are pushing for a later trial to give him time to set up his administration and work on other priorities. No date has been set. Already National Guard troops flood the city and protect the Capitol amid warnings of more violence ahead of the inaugural. It's a far different picture, due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the threats of violence, from the traditional pomp and peaceful transfer of power.

Whenever it starts, the impeachment trial will force a further reckoning for the Republican Party and the senators who largely stood by Trump throughout his presidency and allowed him to spread false attacks against the 2020 election. Last week's assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and flashed unsettling imagery around the globe, the most serious breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812, and the worst by home-grown intruders.

“The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by shining a light on the truth,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., who will serve as an impeachment manager.

“That’s what the trial in the Senate will be about," she told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House on a single charge, incitement of insurrection, in lightning-quick proceedings just a week after after the siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but he has not signaled how he would vote. McConnell continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial next week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate.

No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. Two new senators from Georgia, both Democrats, are to be sworn in, leaving the chamber divided 50-50. That will tip the majority to the Democrats once Kamala Harris takes office. The vice president is the tie breaker.

But conviction of Trump is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday, “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence.” She said in a statement that the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments.

At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about Trump’s actions, but others have signaled their preference to move on. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement saying he opposes impeachment against a president who has left office. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is building support for an alternative of launching a commission to investigate the siege.

Ahead of opening arguments, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, another impeachment manager, suggested senators will be asked to focus on their own experiences the day of the attack.

“You don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” Swalwell said.

The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory as lawmakers fled for shelter and police, guns drawn, barricaded the doors to the House chamber.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

Under Senate procedure, the trial is to start soon after the House delivers the article of impeachment. The soonest the calendar has senators back in session is Tuesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not said when she will take the crucial next step to transmit the impeachment article to the Senate. After Trump’s first impeachment, in 2019, she withheld the articles for some time to set the stage for the Senate action.

Biden has said the Senate should be able this time to split its work, starting the trial and working on his priorities, including swift confirmation of his Cabinet nominees.

On Inauguration Day, the Senate typically confirms some of the new president’s Cabinet, particularly national security officials. Biden’s choice of Avril Haines as director of national intelligence will have a hearing Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“We are working with Republicans to try to find a path forward,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s office.

Biden ally Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the tension among Democrats is over moving ahead quickly on impeachment or focusing on the president-elect's other priorities. “We are balancing,” he said on CNN.

Holed up at the White House, watching the impeachment proceedings on TV, Trump released a video statement late Wednesday in which he appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Biden's inauguration.

“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for," Trump said.

He was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit.

In making a case for the "high crimes and misdemeanors" demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump's own language spreading falsehoods about the election. It also seeks to prevent him from ever holding public office again.

Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.

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Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., displays the signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., displays the signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: Alex Brandon

Credit: Alex Brandon

Troops move inside the Capitol Visitor's Center to reinforce security at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The House of Representatives is pursuing an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump for his role in inciting an angry mob to storm the Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Troops move inside the Capitol Visitor's Center to reinforce security at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The House of Representatives is pursuing an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump for his role in inciting an angry mob to storm the Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: Alex Brandon

Credit: Alex Brandon

Hundreds of National Guard troops hold inside the Capitol Visitor's Center to reinforce security at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The House of Representatives is pursuing an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump for his role in inciting an angry mob to storm the Capitol last week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Hundreds of National Guard troops hold inside the Capitol Visitor's Center to reinforce security at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The House of Representatives is pursuing an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump for his role in inciting an angry mob to storm the Capitol last week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., hand pizzas to members of the National Guard gathered at the Capitol Visitor Center, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Washington. as the House of Representatives continues with its fast-moving House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, a week after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., hand pizzas to members of the National Guard gathered at the Capitol Visitor Center, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Washington. as the House of Representatives continues with its fast-moving House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, a week after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta

Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Credit: Gerald Herbert

Credit: Gerald Herbert

FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2019 file photo, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington. A deepening divide among Republicans over President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election runs prominently through Wyoming, the state that delivered Trump's widest prevailing margin by far. Eleven Republican senators saying they will not be voting Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, to confirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory include Wyoming's newly sworn in Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Cheyenne-area rancher and former congresswoman. Vocal opponents of any such move include Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, leader of GOP messaging in the House as its third-ranking Republican (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2019 file photo, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington. A deepening divide among Republicans over President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election runs prominently through Wyoming, the state that delivered Trump's widest prevailing margin by far. Eleven Republican senators saying they will not be voting Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, to confirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory include Wyoming's newly sworn in Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Cheyenne-area rancher and former congresswoman. Vocal opponents of any such move include Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, leader of GOP messaging in the House as its third-ranking Republican (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Members of the National Guard stand inside anti-scaling fencing that surrounds the Capitol complex, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alan Fram)
Members of the National Guard stand inside anti-scaling fencing that surrounds the Capitol complex, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alan Fram)

Credit: Alan Fram

Credit: Alan Fram

The signature of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., is on the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump, after an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The signature of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., is on the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump, after an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Credit: Alex Brandon

Credit: Alex Brandon

A video released by the White House, President Donald Trump shows a Twitter video on a television monitor in an empty press briefing room at the White House in Washington, after the U.S. House impeached him, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The pre-recorded video was being broadcast by Fox News. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert )
A video released by the White House, President Donald Trump shows a Twitter video on a television monitor in an empty press briefing room at the White House in Washington, after the U.S. House impeached him, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The pre-recorded video was being broadcast by Fox News. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert )

Credit: Gerald Herbert

Credit: Gerald Herbert

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