Impeachment case of Donald Trump moves closer as House delivers charge

Video report by US Correspondent Emma Murphy

The impeachment case against former US president Donald Trump has been delivered to the Senate ahead of the historic trial.

The nine House prosecutors carried the sole impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” across the Capitol on Monday, making a solemn and ceremonial march to the Senate along the same halls the rioters ransacked just weeks ago.

But Republican denunciations of Mr Trump have cooled since the January 6 riot.

Instead Mr Trump’s party colleagues are presenting a tangle of legal arguments against the legitimacy of the trial and questioning whether his repeated demands to overturn Joe Biden’s election really amounted to incitement.

Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson leads the Democratic House impeachment managers to deliver the article of impeachment. Credit: AP

Some Democrats had felt it was an open-and-shut case that played out for the world on live television, as Mr Trump encouraged a rally mob to “fight like hell” for his presidency, but this view is running into a Republican Party that feels very differently.

Not only are there legal concerns, but senators are wary of crossing the former president and his legions of followers – who are their voters.

Senator John Cornyn questioned what could happen next if Congress starts holding impeachment trials of former officials, saying: “Could we go back and try President Obama?”

Former President Donald Trump was impeached twice Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

He also suggested that Mr Trump has already been held to account.

“One way in our system you get punished is losing an election,” he said.

Arguments in the Senate trial will begin the week of February 8, and the case against Mr Trump, the first former president to face impeachment trial, will test a political party still sorting itself out for the post-Trump era.

Republican senators are balancing the demands of deep-pocketed donors who are distancing themselves from Mr Trump and voters who demand loyalty to him.

For Democrats the tone, tenor and length of the upcoming trial, so early in Mr Biden’s presidency, poses its own challenge, forcing them to strike a balance between their vow to hold Mr Trump accountable and their eagerness to deliver on the new administration’s priorities following their sweep of control of the House, Senate and White House.

Mr Biden himself told CNN late on Monday that the impeachment trial “has to happen”.

While acknowledging the effect it could have on his agenda, he said there would be “a worse effect if it didn’t happen”.

Mr Biden said he did not think enough Republican senators would vote for impeachment to convict, though he also said the outcome might well have been different if Mr Trump had six months left in his term.