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US Senate sets speedy timeline for Trump impeachment trial
Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Senate have agreed to a timeline for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump beginning on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced.
The timeline provides for four days of arguments evenly divided between US House of Representatives managers, who will prosecute the impeachment charge against the former president, and Trump’s defence lawyers, Schumer said on Monday.
“All parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president,” Schumer said.
“Each side will have ample time to make their arguments.”
The US House of Representatives impeached Trump last month for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in whipping up a mob of his supporters, which attacked the US Capitol on January 6. Trump through his lawyers is denying the charge.
Under the terms of the timeline announced by Schumer, House managers and Trump’s defence lawyers will each have 16 hours across two days to present their respective arguments.
The Senate will take a break for the Sabbath, beginning at sunset on Friday, and return no sooner than Sunday afternoon to complete the work, Schumer said.
Early next week, after the initial arguments are completed, the Senate plans to debate and decide whether to call witnesses, including potentially Trump himself, before the trial can be brought to a close, Schumer said.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the agreed timeline “preserves due process and the rights of both sides” and would give senators “ample time to review the case and the arguments”.
Trump’s lawyers are insisting the former president did not incite a riot at the US Capitol last month and have argued that his impeachment by the House of Representatives should be dismissed by the Senate this week.
In a pre-trial brief filed on Monday, Trump’s legal team, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, offered a robust response to House Democrats’ charges that the former president is guilty of “incitement of insurrection”.
Democrats have pointed to Trump’s speech to supporters just before the riot at the Capitol, where he called for them to “fight” to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, as evidence of “incitement”.
Trump’s lawyers argue that in addition to his remarks being protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of speech, “not a single word encouraged violence or lawlessness, explicitly or implicitly”.
Trump’s legal team said that in addition to his speech not constituting incitement, the impeachment process itself is unconstitutional.
Trump was impeached the first time in 2019 for abuse of power for pressuring the government of Ukraine. He was acquitted after a two-week Senate trial.
He is the only US president to have been impeached twice.