Senate agrees to delay Trump impeachment trial to February 8

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By Euronews  with AP
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y, takes the elevator in the U.S. Capitol, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y, takes the elevator in the U.S. Capitol, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate over his incitement of a riot on Capitol Hill will begin the week of February 8, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced.

It will mark the first time a former president faces trial in the chamber after leaving office.

Republicans had pushed to delay the trial to give Trump time to prepare a legal team and a defence on the charge of "incitement of insurrection".

The delay also will give the Senate time to consider President Joe Biden's top priorities, including his Cabinet nominations and a $1.9 trillion (€1.56 trillion) COVID relief package.

“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Schumer, a Democrat, said about the deadly insurrection that occurred on January 6.

“But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday but opening arguments will move to February.

Republicans have argued that the impeachment trial is pointless and potentially unconstitutional while Democrats say Trump needs to be held to account for his actions.

If Trump is convicted, the Senate could vote to stop him from holding public office again.

He is the only US president that has been impeached twice. His second impeachment came after he urged protesters to march on the Capitol as lawmakers were certifying electoral college votes.

Trump had repeated baseless claims that the election was stolen and that he in fact had won.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had proposed delaying the start and welcomed the agreement.

“Republicans set out to ensure the Senate’s next steps will respect former President Trump’s rights and due process, the institution of the Senate, and the office of the presidency,” said McConnell spokesman Doug Andres. "That goal has been achieved.”

Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump, a high bar. While most Republican senators condemned Trump's actions that day, far fewer appear to be ready to convict.

McConnell, who said this week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote.

He said Senate Republicans "strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defence and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal and constitutional questions.”