First steps in Democrats' bid to ensure Trump will never hold office again

Former US president Donald Trump. A Reuters/Ipsos poll has found that 51pc of Americans thought the Senate should convict

Susan Cornwell

The first steps in a historic impeachment of Donald Trump were taken yesterday.

The US House of Representatives formally charged former president Trump with inciting insurrection.

The charge is based on his fiery speech to his followers before this month's deadly attack on the Capitol.

Nine House Democrats who will act as prosecutors walked through the building, carrying the article of impeachment to the Senate where Mr Trump will face trial.

A similar ceremony was carried out for Mr Trump's first impeachment trial last January.


It marks two historic firsts - Mr Trump is the only US president to have been impeached by the House twice and will be the first to face trial after leaving office.

The significance of the move is the fact a conviction in the Senate could result in a vote to ban him from future office.

Leaders of the Senate, which is divided 50-50 with Democrats holding a majority because of the tie-breaking vote of Vice-President Kamala Harris, have agreed not to start the trial until February 9.

That gives Mr Trump more time to prepare a defence and allows the chamber to focus on President Joe Biden's early priorities, including Cabinet appointments.

After a two-month campaign to try to discredit his election defeat, Mr Trump on January 6 urged his followers to "fight" to overturn the result. A mob later descended on the Capitol, sending lawmakers into hiding and for several hours delaying Congress' formal certification of Mr Biden's victory.

Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Mr Trump, a step akin to an indictment in a criminal trial. Senate Democrats will need the support of 17 Republicans to convict him, a steep climb given Mr Trump's continued popularity with Republican voters.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll has found that 51pc of Americans thought the Senate should convict Mr Trump. That largely broke down along party lines, with less than two in 10 Republicans agreeing. Multiple Republicans, including the party's Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, have condemned the violence and criticised Mr Trump for allegedly inciting it.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney told CNN on Sunday the trial was necessitated by Mr Trump's inflammatory call to his supporters.

"I believe what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offence. If not, what is?" said Mr Romney, a frequent critic of Mr Trump and the only Republican to vote to convict at his first impeachment trial.

But a significant number of Republican lawmakers have raised objections to the impeachment. Senator Marco Rubio pronounced the trial "stupid" and "counterproductive" on Fox News Sunday.

"We already have a flaming fire in this country and it's like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire," Mr Rubio said.

The case is a simpler one than Mr Trump's first impeachment, which focused on a phone call with Ukraine's president that was disclosed by a whistleblower.

In this case, the actions played out in a public speech and a separate phone call to a Georgia election official released to the news media.

Mr Trump was acquitted in his first trial last year, which took nearly three weeks and dealt with charges the president had abused his power and obstructed Congress over his call pressing Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday the second trial would be fairly quick.


"Everyone wants to put this awful chapter in American history behind us. But sweeping it under the rug will not bring healing," he said.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of Mr Trump who has been helping him build a legal team, urged the Senate to reject the idea of a post-presidency trial - potentially with a vote to dismiss the charge - and suggested Republicans will scrutinise whether Mr Trump's words on January 6 were legally "incitement".

Mr McConnell, who said last week that Mr Trump "provoked" his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote.