House to deliver Trump impeachment charge on Monday, rejecting Republican push for time

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will deliver an impeachment charge against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, rejecting Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s request for a delay.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who displaced McConnell as the chamber’s leader after Democrats won two Georgia runoff elections this month, announced the move on the Senate floor but did not say when Trump’s second impeachment trial would begin.

“The House will deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate. The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump. It will be a full trial. It will be a fair trial,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Friday.

That came the morning after McConnell asked the House to delay sending the charges until next Thursday, and to agree not to start the trial until mid-February to give Trump more time to prepare a defense against the charge that he incited insurrection by his followers who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” McConnell said on Friday. “The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself.”

The moves come as Schumer and McConnell are struggling to assert control in a 50-50 chamber where Democrats hold now hold a razor-thin majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

The trial could distract from Democratic President Joe Biden’s efforts to push an ambitious legislative agenda through Congress, including nearly $2 trillion in fresh COVID-19 relief for Americans and U.S. businesses, as well as the need to confirm his Cabinet nominees.

Trump last week became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and when the Senate convenes for his trial will be the first president to be tried after leaving office.

Ten House Republicans joined Democrats on Jan. 13 in impeaching him. The support of at least 17 Senate Republicans would be needed to convict him; a separate vote would then be needed to ban him from running for office again.

Such a vote could signal that senior Republicans were eager to remove Trump as the de facto leader of their party; he has said he may seek to run again in 2024.

Trump’s fate ultimately could depend on McConnell, whose position is likely to influence other Republican lawmakers. The Kentucky Republican said this week that the mob was “fed lies” and “provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

Impeachment or the 14th Amendment: Can Trump be barred from future office?

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – Some U.S. lawmakers have said President Donald Trump should be disqualified from holding political office again following his impeachment on Wednesday for inciting a mob that stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Now that the House has impeached Trump, the Senate will hold a trial on whether to remove him and possibly bar him from future office.

Legal experts said disqualification could be accomplished through the impeachment proceedings or the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Here is how the disqualification effort could play out.

CAN TRUMP’S DISQUALIFICATION BE ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH IMPEACHMENT?

The U.S. Constitution says there are two ways to punish an impeached official: removal from office or “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”

The House approved a single article of impeachment accusing Trump of inciting insurrection when he delivered a speech to supporters.

Trump is likely to argue at trial that his remarks were free speech protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and that, while he told supporters to “fight,” he did not intend it as a literal call to violence.

Removing an official requires a “conviction” by a two-thirds Senate majority under the Constitution. Under precedent, only a simple majority is needed for disqualification. Historically, that vote only happens after a conviction.

Three federal officials in U.S. history have been disqualified through impeachment proceedings. All three were federal judges.

Most recently, in 2010 the Senate removed and disqualified from future office a Louisiana judge found to have engaged in corruption.

There is some debate over the scope of the disqualification clause and whether it applies to the presidency, said Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University.

Analyzing historical documents, some law experts say the founders did not intend the presidency to be considered an “office” under the disqualification clause, while others argue that the term applies.

CAN TRUMP BE DISQUALIFIED IF HE IS NOT CONVICTED BY THE SENATE?

This is uncharted legal territory, and there is no clear answer, scholars said.

Paul Campos, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Colorado, said he believed a vote to disqualify Trump can be held even if there are not enough votes for conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the Senate has wide latitude to determine how it conducts a trial, he said.

But Kalt said he thought disqualification would require conviction first. To do otherwise would be the equivalent of punishing the president for an offense he did not commit, Kalt said.

All three judges who were disqualified from office were first convicted.

WHAT ABOUT THE 14TH AMENDMENT?

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment provides an alternative path for disqualification.

The provision states that no person shall hold office if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States. It was enacted following the Civil War to bar Confederates from holding public office.

Under congressional precedent, only a simple majority of both chambers is needed to invoke this penalty. Congress can later remove the disqualification, but only if two-thirds of both houses vote in favor of doing so.

In 1919, Congress used the 14th Amendment to block an elected official, Victor Berger, from assuming his seat in the House because he had actively opposed U.S. intervention in World War I.

The text of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment does not explain how it should be invoked.

Another section the 14th Amendment, Section 5, empowers Congress to enforce the entire amendment through “appropriate legislation.” Some scholars have interpreted this language to mean that a majority of both chambers of Congress could enact a law applying a ban to a particular president, like Trump.

“The 14th Amendment route is very unclear as to what it would take to get it rolling,” said Kalt. “I think it would require some combination of legislation and litigation.”

COULD TRUMP CHALLENGE A DISQUALIFICATION IN COURT?

It is certainly possible, said Kalt.

A Supreme Court case from 1993 makes clear that the court is wary of second-guessing how the Senate handles impeachment. In that case, involving an accused judge, the court said whether the Senate had properly tried an impeachment was a political question and could not be litigated.

If Trump is disqualified, the current Supreme Court might want to clarify whether the move was lawful, Kalt said.

Trump appointed three of the Supreme Court’s nine members: Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and most recently Amy Coney Barrett. The court now has a six-judge conservative majority.

“If you are going to say someone can’t run, you want to get that litigated and settled sooner rather than later,” Kalt said.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis)

U.S. House begins debating impeachment of Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday began debating legislation to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time of his presidency.

The House is set to first hold a vote setting rules for Wednesday’s debate. If it is approved it will set the stage for a vote later in the day on passage of one article of impeachment charging Trump with inciting insurrection in a speech he made last week that led to rioting in the U.S. Capitol.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Susan Heavey)

Democrats in Congress to begin drive to force Trump from office after Capitol violence

By Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats begin their drive to force President Donald Trump from office this week, with a House vote on articles of impeachment expected as early as Wednesday that could make him the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

“It is important that we act, and it is important that we act in a very serious and deliberative manner,” Representative Jim McGovern, chairman of the Rules Committee, told CNN on Monday. “We expect this up on the floor on Wednesday. And I expect that it will pass.”

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week, scattering lawmakers who were certifying Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, in a harrowing assault on the center of American democracy that left five dead.

The violence came after Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol at a rally where he repeated that his election defeat was illegitimate. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, many of her fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans say Trump should not be trusted to serve out his term.

“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi wrote to fellow House Democrats on Sunday.

Dozens of people who attacked police officers, stole computers and smashed windows at the Capitol have been arrested for their role in the violence, and officials have opened 25 domestic terrorism investigations.

Trump acknowledged that a new administration would take office on Jan. 20 in a video statement after the attack but has not appeared in public. Twitter and Facebook have suspended his accounts, citing the risk of him inciting violence.

When the House convenes at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) on Monday, lawmakers will bring up a resolution asking Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the never-used 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows the vice president and the Cabinet to remove a president deemed unfit to do the job. A recorded vote is expected on Tuesday.

McGovern said he expected Republican lawmakers to object to the request to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump. In that case, he said, his committee will provide a rule to bring that legislation to the House for a vote and, 24 hours later, the committee will then bring another resolution to deal with impeachment.

“What this president did is unconscionable, and he needs to be held to account,” McGovern said.

Pence was in the Capitol along with his family when Trump’s supporters attacked, and he and Trump are currently not on speaking terms. But Republicans have shown little interest in invoking the 25th Amendment. Pence’s office did not respond to questions about the issue. A source said last week he was opposed to the idea.

POSSIBLE INSURRECTION CHARGE

If Pence does not act, Pelosi said the House could vote to impeach Trump on a single charge of insurrection. Aides to House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted against recognizing Biden’s victory, did not respond to a request for comment.

House Democrats impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the Republican-controlled Senate voted not to convict him.

Democrats’ latest effort to force Trump out also faces long odds of success without bipartisan support. Only four Republican lawmakers have so far said publicly that Trump should not serve out the remaining nine days in his term.

The lawmakers who drafted the impeachment charge say they have locked in the support of at least 200 of the chamber’s 222 Democrats, indicating strong odds of passage. Biden has so far not weighed in on impeachment, saying it is a matter for Congress.

Even if the House impeaches Trump for a second time, the Senate would not take up the charges until Jan. 19 at the earliest.

An impeachment trial would tie up the Senate during Biden’s first weeks in office, preventing the new president from installing Cabinet secretaries and acting on priorities like coronavirus relief.

Representative Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, suggested his chamber could avoid that problem by waiting several months to send the impeachment charge over to the Senate.

A conviction could lead to Trump being barred from running for president again in 2024.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Cornwell, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Scott Malone, Peter Cooney and Chizu Nomiyama)

Trump eyes White House changes after impeachment acquittal: source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is eyeing a series of staff changes days after securing an acquittal in his impeachment trial, including ousting a national security official who testified against him and replacing his acting chief of staff, a source familiar with the situation and media reports said on Friday.

Trump emerged victorious this week with a near party-line vote in the Senate, controlled by his fellow Republicans who rejected abuse of power and obstruction of justice charges from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

But the president, whose term has been clouded by a series of investigations – first into Russian interference in the 2016 election and then the impeachment inquiry over his handling of Ukraine – has said he is still bitter about the ordeal as he turns his attention to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council’s (NSC’s) top Ukraine expert who testified in lawmakers’ impeachment inquiry, will be reassigned to the Defense Department, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Bloomberg News first reported the planned White House removal of Vindman, citing two people familiar with the matter who said the move would be cast as part of a larger NSC downsizing. Three other people familiar with the matter, however, told Bloomberg some reassignments were because of perceived disloyalty.

The Washington Post, which also reported Vindman’s possible move, said Trump has also discussed removing other national security officials who cooperated with House Democrats’ investigations, though no final decisions have been made, citing unnamed people familiar with his comments.

Another senior white House aide who testified over impeachment, Jennifer Williams, left earlier this week for a post at the U.S. Central Command, according to Bloomberg News.

Trump has cast both Vindman and Williams as “Never Trumpers” who oppose him.

CNN reported Trump was weighing a permanent chief of staff to replace his acting aide Mick Mulvaney, who was a central figure in the impeachment inquiry over Trump’s efforts to pressure ally Ukraine to investigate Democrats and withhold military aid for Kiev.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere, asked about the reports, confirmed his statement to CNN: “We have no personnel announcements at this time.”

In two speeches on Thursday, Trump took aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats as well as Republican Senator Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee and the only Republican senator to back an impeachment charge.

“So many people have been hurt, and we can’t let that go on,” Trump told the typically bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast, attended by Pelosi. “When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them, it’s not easy, folks,” he said.

At a White House celebratory event with his legal team and congressional supporters, Trump on Thursday also called out former FBI Director James Comey, House Democrats’ lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff, and his 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, though he stopped short of announcing any specific actions to be taken against anyone.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham had told Fox News that Trump was considering “just how horribly he was treated and that maybe people should pay for that.”

Separately, two Trump aides brought in to the White House to help with the impeachment proceedings, Tony Sayegh and Pam Bondi, were leaving following the Senate’s acquittal on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Howard Goller)

A newly emboldened Trump gives Democrats a reason to fret

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump took the stage for his State of the Union speech in an unfamiliar position: With the wind at his back.

For most of his three years in office, Trump has been surrounded by tumult, much of it of his own making, resulting ultimately in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Now, for the first time in a long time, things are looking up.

He is on the verge of being acquitted by his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. Opinion polls show his approval ratings on an upswing. And the Democratic presidential nomination race was consumed by chaos as results from the Iowa caucuses this week were delayed by a full day because the mobile app used to record the results had a coding problem.

For Trump, the timing could not be better.

Despite being impeached, he is firmly entrenched in office, after surviving the Mueller investigation into Russian electoral interference and accusations that he abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.

“He has had existential political threats facing him from the moment he was elected until tomorrow,” said Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak, referring to the impending acquittal vote on impeachment charges.

All of it brought out the showman in the former reality TV star during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. At one point, he choreographed a reunion between a U.S. servicemember returning from Afghanistan and his family to cheers from lawmakers.

Along that line, for much of the speech, Trump appeared to be making an overt appeal to suburban voters who could decide his fate.

He spoke of child-care initiatives, and efforts to combat AIDS and the opioid crisis. He called for greater transparency for medical bills, and he sought to take credit for protecting Americans with pre-existing healthcare conditions, even though his administration supports a lawsuit that would gut the Affordable Care Act.

Trump also touted bipartisan accomplishments such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal and vowed to protect entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He pledged to protect the public from the coronavirus that is spreading in China and beyond.

RIGHT TURN

But lest anyone think the combustible Trump had turned touchy-feely, he also reassured his hardline supporters by previewing what promises to be a recurrent campaign theme: accusing Democrats of supporting unlimited free healthcare to undocumented immigrants.

As he did during his first presidential campaign, he warned of the dangers of so-called “Sanctuary Cities” and detailed incidents of violent crime committed by border-crossers.

Trump, too, seemed eager to exploit divisions among Democrats as they struggle to settle on a candidate who could mount the biggest threat to him.

The early favorite, Biden, appeared to have stumbled badly in Iowa, while U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, was much more competitive.

At one point, Trump appeared to reference Sanders, who favors a government-run healthcare system, by declaring “We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!”

At a campaign event in New Hampshire, Sanders drew a laugh from the crowd on Tuesday when he questioned Trump’s pledge to improve healthcare in America: “Really? How gullible do you think the American people are?” he said.

In his speech to Congress, Trump did not address the most polarizing topic in the room, the months-long attempt by Democrats to remove him from office. He avoided any temptation to take a victory lap ahead of Wednesday’s Senate vote.

“It was very smart to ignore the impeachment trial, stay above the fray and instead provide a laundry list of accomplishments along with proposals that will keep his base rock solid,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist in Washington.

That did not stop partisan tensions from running high. At the close of his remarks, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who had orchestrated Trump’s impeachment in the House, tore up her copy of his speech. Earlier, Trump had refused to shake her hand upon entering the chamber.

While recent polls showed that more than 40 percent of Americans favored Trump’s conviction and removal from office on charges that he tried to persuade Ukraine to interfere in the coming election, Trump received good news from another poll on Tuesday.

The Gallup organization said he had reached his personal best in their tracking poll, hitting 49% approval – the highest since he took office.

That prompted nervous Democrats on social media all day to fret that Trump, after three years of non-stop drama, might be peaking at just the right time.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; Additional reporting by Simon Lewis in Manchester, New Hampshire; Editing by Howard Goller)

Dogged by impeachment, Trump goes head to head with Congress in big speech

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the impeachment drive against him ebbing, U.S. President Donald Trump will face his Democratic accusers on Tuesday night at a State of the Union speech where he is expected to push his case for another four years in office.

Trump, a Republican, may be tempted to lash out at the Democratic critics seated before him in the U.S. House of Representatives, seeing it as a chance for payback against those who sought to oust him through what he calls a “witch hunt.”

Some of his aides and allies, however, are pressing for him to avoid a confrontation.

The Republican-led Senate is almost certain to end the impeachment drive on Wednesday with a vote to acquit him. His speech, which starts at 9 p.m. ET (0200 GMT) on Tuesday, affords Trump the opportunity to advance his message for what is likely to be a hard-fought battle for re-election on Nov. 3.

Aides say there has been an internal debate inside the White House over whether he should even bring up impeachment in his speech.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose fellow Democrats charged Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of justice over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic opponents, told the New York Times they would treat him “as a guest … and we hope he will behave as a guest.”

But, she added: “I think the spotlight that is on him will be very hot for him to handle.”

A senior administration official said on Monday night that Trump was not expected to delve deeply into the issue, if at all, but acknowledged that this could always change.

Trump himself has said he plans an upbeat speech offering an optimistic vision at a time when Washington – and the rest of the country – is polarized over his leadership.

“We’re really looking to giving a very, very positive message,” Trump told reporters during a Super Bowl party at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday.

Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and strong Trump supporter, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday that Trump would help himself by taking the high road.

“I hope he will smother people with the milk of human kindness,” Roberts said.

Asked if Trump could turn impeachment to his advantage by being gracious about it going forward, Roberts said, “Could. Some of us have urged that.”

The theme of Trump’s speech is “The Great American Comeback.” He plans to highlight the strength of the U.S. economy and achievements to support it like a China trade deal and another trade pact with Mexico and Canada.

Trump is also expected to offer to work with his political opponents on issues like reducing healthcare costs and drug prices and rebuilding infrastructure, officials said.

But with the two parties immersed in election-year politicking, no major legislative action is expected this year.

Trump is expected to contrast his vision for healthcare with the plans advanced by his Democratic rivals, a reference to left-leaning proposals by two of the Democratic presidential candidates he frequently attacks, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

He is also expected to promote his efforts to limit migrants from crossing the southern U.S. border, and will bring two relatives of a man who was killed by an undocumented immigrant as guests to the speech, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday morning.

Trump will also highlight national security moves such as his decision to kill Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani with a U.S. drone strike.

Still, the president held out little hope for bipartisan cooperation this year in the wake of the impeachment fight, saying he doubted Democrats would want to work with him.

“I’m not sure that they can do it, to be honest,” Trump told the Fox network in a Super Bowl Sunday interview.

Pelosi, who will be seated behind Trump when he addresses Congress, told the Times in her interview Monday that she had not spoken to Trump since October.

The State of the Union speech is attended by Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both the House and the Senate as well as such VIP guests as Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. The television audience for last year’s speech was estimated at 47 million people.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason; Editing by Howard Goller)

Top Senate Republican lashes out at Democrats over Trump impeachment

By Susan Cornwell and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A day before the Senate is expected to acquit President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, the chamber’s top Republican on Tuesday exhorted senators to clear Trump and stop Democrats’ “factional fever” from scorching America’s system of government.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic counterpart, Senator Chuck Schumer, said the president, not impeachment, was the threat to democracy in the United States.

The impeachment trial of the 45th U.S. president began on Jan. 16 and is winding to a close on Wednesday, when the deeply divided Senate is scheduled to vote on whether Trump should be removed from office. He appears assured of acquittal, with a two-thirds vote needed to remove him from office and his fellow Republicans occupying 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

Senators on Tuesday were delivering a series of speeches explaining how they will vote.

McConnell, who helped engineer a stripped-down trial with no witnesses or new evidence, lashed out during a speech on the Senate floor at the Democratic House of Representatives for pursuing impeachment.

The House impeached Trump on Dec. 18 on charges of abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter and obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and documents sought in the investigation. The Constitution allows for the removal of a president for committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“We must vote to reject the House abuse of power, vote to protect our institutions, vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the framers’ design to rubble, vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our republic,” McConnell said.

McConnell echoed the arguments made by Trump’s legal team that Democrats were seeking to annul the 2016 election in which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Washington Democrats think President Donald Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanor the moment – the moment – he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. That is the original sin of this presidency – that he won and they lost,” McConnell said. “Ever since, the nation has suffered through a grinding campaign against our norms and institutions from the same people who keep shouting that our norms and institutions need defending.”

McConnell called the two charges constitutionally incoherent, though he did disagree with the view offered by Trump’s legal team that a president cannot be impeached without a violation of statutory law.

Shortly after McConnell spoke, top Senate Democrat Schumer said Trump’s actions in the Ukraine matter were the true threat to America. Schumer said that for a president to “blackmail a foreign country to interfere in our elections gets at the very core of what our democracy is about.”

“If Americans believe that they don’t determine who is president, who is governor, who is senator, but some foreign country out of reach can join us on elections, that is the beginning of the end of democracy,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Trump has drawn almost uniform support among Republican senators though several have called his actions wrong and inappropriate.

THE NOVEMBER ELECTION

Trump is running for re-election in the Nov. 3 election. Former Vice President Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump. Besides aiming to unseat Trump, Democrats hope to keep their majority in the House and seek to seize the Senate from Republican control.

Trump is scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Union address to Congress in the House chamber on Tuesday night.

Any hints of fallout in the impeachment trial will be most closely watched in electoral districts and states closely divided between Republicans and Democrats and will play a pivotal role in November’s House and Senate races.

Any backlash against the impeachment drive could hurt some Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, while Republicans who have staunchly defended Trump could find themselves in a tough spot with their moderate constituents.

On Monday night, Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a moderate, said she would vote to acquit Trump but also sharply criticized the president and lawmakers in both parties.

“The president’s behavior was shameful and wrong. His personal interests do not take precedent over those of this great nation,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said that even if the Senate votes to acquit the president as expected, Democrats have succeeded in uncovering Trump’s actions that they argue make him unfit for office or re-election.

“Whatever happens, he has been impeached forever. And now these senators, though they don’t have the courage to assign the appropriate penalty, at least are recognizing that he did something wrong,” Pelosi told the New York Times.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, David Morgan, Makini Brice, Richard Cowan, Lisa Lambert, Patricia Zengerle and Susan Heavey; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Howard Goller)

After controversial trial, U.S. Senate poised to acquit Trump

By David Morgan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump was on the brink of ending the darkest chapter of his tumultuous presidency on Monday as the U.S. Senate began the final phase of his impeachment trial that will almost certainly conclude on Wednesday with his acquittal.

The 100 senators will hear four hours of closing arguments split equally between Trump’s legal team and prosecutors from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which charged him with abusing power by pressuring Ukraine to probe political rival Joe Biden, and then obstructing their inquiry.

The Republican-run Senate voted on Friday not to hear from witnesses including Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, despite a strong push by Democrats and opinion polls showing most Americans wanted to hear from them.

When the arguments are complete, the senators will be able to make speeches until Wednesday when a final vote will be taken at 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) to determine whether Trump is guilty of the charges and should be removed from office.

The tenor of the speeches is expected to reflect the deepening polarization between Democrats and Republicans as senators seek to justify to the American public why they plan to vote yay or nay for ousting Trump.

The Senate is almost certain to acquit the president, as a two-thirds majority is required to remove Trump and none of its 53 Republicans have indicated they will vote to convict.

Several Republican senators have said that what Trump did was inappropriate but not impeachable. The president says he is the victim of an unlawful Democratic effort to derail his campaign for re-election.

BRUISING BATTLE

During the trial, Trump’s lawyers offered an expansive view of presidential powers as they argued that their client had wide latitude to conduct U.S. foreign policy and that he could not be thrown out of office for abuse of power. They urged senators to let the people decide when they go to the polls in November.

Trump is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached and the first in an election year.

The vote on Wednesday is expected to be an anti-climactic end to a trial where the outcome was never seriously in doubt, despite testimony from former and current government officials that Trump, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others pressed Ukraine to announce investigations of opponents that would benefit him politically.

While all 100 senators took an oath to be impartial jurors, the top Republican in the chamber, Mitch McConnell, declared in December before the start of the trial, “We all know how it’s going to end.”

“There is no chance the president’s going to be removed from office,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox News.

While an acquittal will leave Trump still firmly entrenched in the Oval Office, the impeachment battle has renewed focus on the powers of the presidency and the power of Congress to hold a U.S. president accountable. Trump’s White House refused to cooperate in the congressional inquiry, withholding documents and key witnesses in a bruising contest with lawmakers.

The confrontation has consumed Washington since last September, but has had far less impact on the campaign trail, where voters said they were more concerned with bread-and-butter issues. Democratic candidates for their party’s presidential nomination have rarely spoken about impeachment, amid polls showing voters had already mostly made up their minds about Trump’s innocence or guilt.

Trump will deliver his annual State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Republicans had been pushing for a final vote on impeachment last weekend so that he could use the speech to reset his agenda. But late last Friday that timetable was upended for reasons that were not immediately clear, and the vote was pushed to Wednesday.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Cornwell; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Ross Colvin and Daniel Wallis)

Democrats accuse Trump at impeachment trial of corrupt scheme to pressure Ukraine

By Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats accused President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial on Wednesday of a corrupt scheme to pressure Ukraine to help him get re-elected and warned that America’s global prestige would suffer if the U.S. Senate acquits him.

The Republican Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, sounded a defiant note, telling reporters in Switzerland the Democrats did not have enough evidence to find him guilty and remove him from office.

In a two-hour opening argument for the prosecution after days of procedural wrangling, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff said Trump had pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son on unsubstantiated corruption charges last year.

“To implement this corrupt scheme, President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign,” said Schiff, leading the House Democrats’ prosecution team of “managers.”

The Democratic team pressed its case against Trump in eight hours of arguments, which will resume on Thursday.

They contend that Trump was trying to find dirt on Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination for the November election, and his son Hunter Biden who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, to help the president win a second term.

Trump was impeached last month by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his dealings with Ukraine and impeding the inquiry into the matter.

Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled 100-member Senate, where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office. But the trial’s effect on his re-election bid is unclear.

FOCUS ON JULY 25 CALL

His fellow Republicans in the Senate say his behavior does not fit the description of “high crimes and misdemeanors” outlined in the U.S. Constitution as a reason to oust a U.S. president.

“We believe without question that the president will be acquitted,” Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told reporters at the end of Wednesday’s session.

Democrats have two more days to make their case. Trump’s defense team will have three days after that for rebuttal in a trial that could potentially conclude next week.

The case against Trump is focused on a July 25 telephone call in which he asked Zelenskiy to open a corruption investigation into the Bidens as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. military aid to Ukraine was frozen for a period of time.

“We have the evidence to prove President Trump ordered the aid withheld, he did so to force Ukraine to help his re-election campaign … we can and will prove President Trump guilty of this conduct and of obstructing the investigation into his conduct,” Schiff said as the day concluded.

Making references to 18th century U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton and the late Republican President Ronald Reagan, Schiff said the world was watching.

“For how can any country trust the United States as a model of governance if it’s one that sanctions precisely the political corruption and invitation to foreign meddling that we have long sought to eradicate in burgeoning democracies around the world?”

He said senators would “also undermine our global standing” if they did not oust Trump three years into his tumultuous presidency.

Tuesday’s start of the impeachment trial drew about 11 million TV viewers, according to Nielsen ratings data, a figure that fell short of the roughly 13.8 million who watched last November for the first day of the House impeachment inquiry into Trump.

HISTORIC TRIAL

It is the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. The opening days have been dominated by arguments over Democratic requests for more witnesses and records.

The Trump administration has not complied with subpoenas for documents and has urged officials like former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to participate in the impeachment investigation.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll released on Wednesday found a bipartisan majority of Americans wanting to see new witnesses testify in the impeachment trial.

It said about 72% agreed that the trial “should allow witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the impeachment charges to testify,” including 84% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans.

In Davos, Switzerland, Trump told reporters at the World Economic Forum that he was happy with the way the trial was going.

“I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material,” Trump said.

Democratic U.S. Representative Val Demings, one of the House impeachment managers, said Trump’s comment amounted to boasting about obstruction of Congress.

“This morning, the president not only confessed to it, he bragged about it: ‘Honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material,'” she said.

But a senior administration official, asked to explain what Trump was referring to, said: “What he’s clearly saying is we have all the facts on our side, and those facts prove he’s done nothing wrong.”

Trump said allowing Bolton to testify at the trial would present national security concerns.

“He knows some of my thoughts, he knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive?” Trump said.

Bolton, a foreign policy hawk who was fired by Trump last year, has disdainfully described the Ukraine pressure campaign as a “drug deal” and testimony from him could be awkward for the president.

A parade of current and former officials spoke at House impeachment hearings last year of a coordinated Trump effort to pressure Ukraine.

But those televised hearings did little to change support for and against Trump’s impeachment. Reuters/Ipsos polling since the inquiry began shows Democrats and Republicans responding largely along party lines.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell and Steve Holland; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)