WASHINGTON | The historic trial of Donald Trump enters, on Tuesday, in the heart of the matter in the United States Senate, where two irreducible camps clash: the Democratic opposition, which calls for the removal of the president of the United States, and the Republican majority, determined to acknowledge it, if possible, at a run.
Four months after the start of the Ukrainian affair that poisons the end of the first term of the Republican, and less than ten months before the presidential election in which he intends to run for a second, the 100 senators will meet at 1 p.m. President of the Supreme Court John Roberts.
The task of these elected officials who were sworn in on Thursday as jurors at the formal opening of the trial? Determine if Donald Trump is guilty of abuse of power and obstructing the work of Congress, as described in the indictment adopted in December by the House of Representatives.
The meeting promises to be all the more serious and solemn since it is only the third trial for the dismissal of an American president, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999.
Donald Trump will be physically absent from Senate hearings and will be represented by a team of lawyers. At the time of the first contests, he will have given a first speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he finds for two days the gotha of politics and world economy.
At the heart of the scandal: a phone call in July during which the American president asked his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, his potential Democratic opponent for the presidential election in November.
The Democrats, the majority in the investigating House, accuse the ex-property magnate of blackmailing Kiev: you are launching the investigation or we are blocking crucial military aid.
“The president has done nothing wrong,” said Donald Trump’s lawyers in their 110-page pitch to the Senate on Monday.
It’s the line of defense for the 73-year-old former New York businessman, who is chained to provocation and likes to break political codes. For months, he has been lambasting a “witch hunt” and claiming that his phone call was “perfect”.
Denouncing a “rigged process” that resulted in “a dangerous perversion of the Constitution”, his lawyers said that the charges adopted with only democratic votes were not liable to dismissal because “they do not involve any crime or violation of the law ”.
The White House legal team, which has recruited a few court stars like ex-prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who tried to knock Bill Clinton into the Lewinsky case, called on the Senate to “acquit immediately »The 45e President of the United States.
Democrats charged with the trial say Donald Trump says “the Senate cannot remove him, even if the charges against him are proven.”
“Tiered with constitutional faults”
The one who will assume the role of attorney general, the elected democrat Adam Schiff, intends on the contrary to prove that the tenant of the White House “committed himself to a third of constitutional faults deserving a dismissal”: “he requested an interference foreign country, endangered our national security and tried to cheat for the next election. ”
“It is the worst nightmare of the fathers of the Constitution,” he hammered on Monday.
In reality, acquittal seems practically assured for Donald Trump, thanks to the Republican majority in the Senate, which stands behind him. The duration of the debates, however, remains an open question.
A few hours before the opening of the proceedings, the greatest vagueness still hung over the course of the trial, which should also start with votes to fix the procedure.
According to members of the presidential camp, the influential Mitch McConnell, head of the Republican majority in the Senate, wishes to impose forced debates, determined to offer Donald Trump the quick acquittal he hopes, ideally within two weeks.
On the program, according to rules of the game proposed Monday evening, Mitch McConnell plans two 12-hour days for the prosecution and as much for the defense so that they can present their arguments, then 16 hours for questions from senators.
Far too short, according to the Democratic opposition in the Senate. Their leader, Chuck Schumer, denounced a “national shame”.
It is only after this first phase that Mitch McConnell intends to vote on the crucial question of witnesses.
Democrats are calling for four key players in the Ukrainian affair to be called to the bar, including the White House’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and ex-national security adviser John Bolton.
But for this, they must win a vote each time, which looks difficult in terms of the balance of power in the Senate, where the Republicans have 53 elected out of 100.