Donald Trump impeachment: when is the Senate trial and what are his chances of a comeback?

Democrats from the House of Representatives delivered an article of impeachment against Donald Trump on Jan25, making him the first former President to face an impeachment trial. Although Mr Trump left office on January 20, he will now face a trial in the Senate, which will begin on the week of February 8. The charge relates to a provocative speech delivered by the former president ahead of the January 6 assault on the US Capitol - an address Democrats argue incited riots.  If convicted, the trial could bar Mr Trump from ever running for, or holding, public office ever again.  Credit: AP What is impeachment? Impeachment is the process by which Congress puts certain officials, namely the president, on trial.   The US constitution lays out a broad scope of offences that can lead to impeachment: "Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."  If a president is convicted of impeachment, he is immediately removed from office. As Mr Trump has already departed the Oval Office he could instead be blocked from ever holding public office again. Why was Donald Trump impeached? Democrats demanded the president be removed from office after a violent mob attack on the US Capitol on Jan 6. The resolution sent to the Senate noted that Mr Trump addressed a rally shortly before his supporters mounted the assault, arguing he made statements that "encouraged and foreseeably resulted in" their lawless actions. The former president told his supporters to march on Congress and “fight like hell” in his attempt to overturn his election defeat to President Joe Biden. Dozens of protesters broke into the building and roamed the corridors as tens of thousands gathered outside. Five people died and at least 135 people have been arrested so far. Read more: Everything we know about what happened when Trump's supporters stormed Washington What happens next? As the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has delivered their article of impeachment, Mr Trump now faces trial in the Senate.  A two-third majority in the Senate would result in the former president's conviction. When is the Senate trial? Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, sent the article of impeachment charging him with "incitement of insurrection" on Jan 25. This means the trial would have started on Jan 27, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to an extension at the request of the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.  This will allow the prosecution and defence teams time to exchange written legal arguments, as well as give Mr Biden chance to install his new cabinet and prepare key legislation. Some Republicans have been discussing halting the trial. Texas Senator John Cornyn was among those casting doubt on the legal ability of the Senate to convict a president no longer in office, though legal scholars differ on the issue. Read more: Conviction in Senate unlikely as ex-president proves too popular to purge How does it work and how many votes are needed? Impeachment does not mean a president will necessarily be kicked out of office. It proceeds like a bill passing through legislature. First, a majority in the House of Representatives – 218 out of 435 members – must approve articles of impeachment previously approved in committee. The article of impeachment easily passed in the House. The bill now goes to the Senate, where a two-thirds majority vote is needed to convict the president - so the bill would need to be backed by a lot of Republicans in order to pass. In the House vote on Jan 13, 10 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for impeachment over Mr Trump’s role. The article, which charging him with "incitement of insurrection", carried by 232 votes to 197. Although a number of Republicans in the Senate have strongly condemned Mr Trump, it is not clear if enough will be prepared to move against him. More than half of Republicans want Mr Trump to be the party’s presidential nominee in the 2024 election, according to a poll. What would it mean for Donald Trump? The Senate may also vote on banning him from ever running for public office again. If Mr Trump is barred from ever running for, or holding, public office again, it would end any possible talk of a comeback run in 2024. The US Senate has the power to prevent Mr Trump from doing so, and a vote on this would only need to be passed by a simple majority. There is precedent for the Senate preventing public officials from seeking office again after impeachment. Judges Robert Archbald (in 1913) and West H Humphreys (in 1862) were both been banned from seeking office after impeachment, although this fate has never befallen a president before. A vote on this can only take place after an impeachment vote. Mr Trump may also lose access to a raft of public benefits he would otherwise be entitled to. According to the 1958 Former Presidents Act, he would be denied his $200,000 annual pension, a $1 million annual travel stipend and extra funding for his future staff. How

Donald Trump impeachment: when is the Senate trial and what are his chances of a comeback?

Democrats from the House of Representatives delivered an article of impeachment against Donald Trump on Jan25, making him the first former President to face an impeachment trial.

Although Mr Trump left office on January 20, he will now face a trial in the Senate, which will begin on the week of February 8.

The charge relates to a provocative speech delivered by the former president ahead of the January 6 assault on the US Capitol - an address Democrats argue incited riots. 

If convicted, the trial could bar Mr Trump from ever running for, or holding, public office ever again. 

Credit: AP

What is impeachment?

Impeachment is the process by which Congress puts certain officials, namely the president, on trial.  

The US constitution lays out a broad scope of offences that can lead to impeachment: "Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." 

If a president is convicted of impeachment, he is immediately removed from office. As Mr Trump has already departed the Oval Office he could instead be blocked from ever holding public office again.

Why was Donald Trump impeached?

Democrats demanded the president be removed from office after a violent mob attack on the US Capitol on Jan 6.

The resolution sent to the Senate noted that Mr Trump addressed a rally shortly before his supporters mounted the assault, arguing he made statements that "encouraged and foreseeably resulted in" their lawless actions.

The former president told his supporters to march on Congress and “fight like hell” in his attempt to overturn his election defeat to President Joe Biden.

Dozens of protesters broke into the building and roamed the corridors as tens of thousands gathered outside. Five people died and at least 135 people have been arrested so far.

Read more: Everything we know about what happened when Trump's supporters stormed Washington

What happens next?

As the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has delivered their article of impeachment, Mr Trump now faces trial in the Senate. 

A two-third majority in the Senate would result in the former president's conviction.

When is the Senate trial?

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, sent the article of impeachment charging him with "incitement of insurrection" on Jan 25. This means the trial would have started on Jan 27, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to an extension at the request of the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. 

This will allow the prosecution and defence teams time to exchange written legal arguments, as well as give Mr Biden chance to install his new cabinet and prepare key legislation.

Some Republicans have been discussing halting the trial. Texas Senator John Cornyn was among those casting doubt on the legal ability of the Senate to convict a president no longer in office, though legal scholars differ on the issue.

Read more: Conviction in Senate unlikely as ex-president proves too popular to purge

How does it work and how many votes are needed?

Impeachment does not mean a president will necessarily be kicked out of office. It proceeds like a bill passing through legislature.

First, a majority in the House of Representatives – 218 out of 435 members – must approve articles of impeachment previously approved in committee. The article of impeachment easily passed in the House.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where a two-thirds majority vote is needed to convict the president - so the bill would need to be backed by a lot of Republicans in order to pass.

In the House vote on Jan 13, 10 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for impeachment over Mr Trump’s role. The article, which charging him with "incitement of insurrection", carried by 232 votes to 197.

Although a number of Republicans in the Senate have strongly condemned Mr Trump, it is not clear if enough will be prepared to move against him.

More than half of Republicans want Mr Trump to be the party’s presidential nominee in the 2024 election, according to a poll.

What would it mean for Donald Trump?

The Senate may also vote on banning him from ever running for public office again.

If Mr Trump is barred from ever running for, or holding, public office again, it would end any possible talk of a comeback run in 2024.

The US Senate has the power to prevent Mr Trump from doing so, and a vote on this would only need to be passed by a simple majority.

There is precedent for the Senate preventing public officials from seeking office again after impeachment. Judges Robert Archbald (in 1913) and West H Humphreys (in 1862) were both been banned from seeking office after impeachment, although this fate has never befallen a president before.

A vote on this can only take place after an impeachment vote.

Mr Trump may also lose access to a raft of public benefits he would otherwise be entitled to.

According to the 1958 Former Presidents Act, he would be denied his $200,000 annual pension, a $1 million annual travel stipend and extra funding for his future staff. However, thanks to an order signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, Mr Trump will still be guaranteed his lifelong secret service detail.

Vice President Mike Pence Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Is there an election after a presidential impeachment?

No. Had Mr Trump been impeached by the Senate earlier, and removed from office, vice president Mike Pence would have immediately take the oath of office and become president until Mr Biden assumed office on Jan 20.

Do impeached officials go to prison?

Impeachment is a political process, not criminal.  

Congress has no power to impose criminal penalties on impeached presidents or officials. However criminal courts could try to punish officials if they are believed to have committed crimes.

Some Democrats have called for criminal charges against Mr Trump for inciting riot, treason and sedition, though this seems unlikely to happen.

"There isn't any judicial review of impeachment decisions, so Congress just needs to be satisfied that Trump committed high crimes or misdemeanours," Jens David Ohlin, a law professor and associate dean at Cornell Law School, said. "They are the ultimate judge of what meets that standard."

Impeachment therefore is at the crossroads of politics and the law. "There's no requirement that the president must have been indicted" for a crime, Prof Ohlin added.

What happened in 2020?

The president was impeached in 2020 over claims he abused his power by holding back aid to Ukraine in the hope that its leader would investigate Mr Biden.

The first plan to impeach Mr Trump arose following the 2019 accusations, but it was not until the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in in the November midterm elections that impeachment became a realistic during his tenure. 

This time Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate.

A total of 52 Republican senators voted against the charge of abuse of power, and 53 against the charge of obstruction of Congress.

On the first charge, Mitt Romney defied his fellow Republicans, becoming the first senator in US history to vote to convict a president from their own party.

Richard Nixon would almost certainly have faced impeachments proceedings in 1974 over the Watergate scandal, but he resigned instead 

History of impeachment

No US president has ever been ousted from office under impeachment proceedings.

Andrew Johnson was the first leader to go through the process in 1868. He was charged with breaking the law after he tried to replace the US secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, without congressional permission.

At the time - in the aftermath of the civil war - the president was required to consult the Senate about such decisions. His impeachment passed to the Senate, where he escaped being removed from office by a one-vote margin.

The other president was Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in 1998, but he was acquitted in the Senate trial. 

Richard Nixon would almost certainly have faced impeachment proceedings in 1974 over the Watergate scandal and undoubtedly would have been removed from office.

However, the disgraced president resigned before it got that far and he handed the presidency over to Gerald Ford.  

Donald Trump's impeachment timeline – what could happen next?