Donald Trump’s impeachment trial over the charge of incitement of insurrection for the deadly Capitol riot will begin in just over a fortnight.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule late on Friday (local time) after reaching an agreement with Republicans.
The delay will allow Mr Trump time to get his legal affairs in order while President Joe Biden confirms his cabinet nominees and begins enacting his policy agenda.
“The Senate will conduct a trial on the impeachment of Donald Trump,” Mr Schumer said Friday on the Senate floor.
“It will be a fair trial. But make no mistake, there will be a trial.”
Under the timeline, the House will transmit the impeachment article against Mr Trump late on Monday, with initial proceedings Tuesday.
From there, Mr Trump’s legal team will have time to prepare the case before opening arguments begin in February.
Unlike any in history, Mr Trump’s impeachment trial would be the first of a US president no longer in office, an undertaking that his Senate Republican allies argue is pointless, and potentially even unconstitutional.
Democrats say they have to hold Mr Trump to account, even as they pursue new President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities, because of the gravity of what took place – a violent attack on the US Congress aimed at overturning an election.
The trial could start as soon as Tuesday, but timing remains uncertain as leaders negotiate. If Mr Trump is convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office ever again, potentially upending his chances for a political comeback.
The urgency to hold Mr Trump responsible is somewhat complicated by Democrats’ simultaneous need to get Mr Biden’s government in place and start quick work on his coronavirus aid package. The trial could halt Senate work on those priorities.
“The more time we have to get up and running … the better,” Mr Biden said on Friday in brief comments to reporters.
A trial delay could appeal to some Democrats, as it would give the Senate more time to confirm the Cabinet and debate the new round of coronavirus relief.
The timing and details of the Senate trial eventually rest on negotiations between Mr Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who are also in talks over a power-sharing agreement for the Senate, which is split 50-50 but in Democratic control because Vice President Kamala Harris serves as a tie-breaking vote.
Whenever the start, Ms Pelosi said on Friday the nine House impeachment managers, or prosecutors, are “ready to begin to make their case” against Mr Trump.
Mr Trump’s team will have had the same amount of time since the House impeachment vote to prepare, Ms Pelosi said.
Democrats say they can move quickly through the trial, potentially with no witnesses, because lawmakers experienced the insurrection first-hand.
Mr Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” just before they invaded the Capitol two weeks ago and interrupted the electoral vote count, is still assembling his legal team.
Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Mr Trump, a high bar. While most Republican senators condemned Mr Trump’s actions that day, far fewer appear to be ready to convict.
Mr Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is at a disadvantage compared with his first impeachment trial, in which he had the full resources of the White House counsel’s office to defend him.