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Trump impeachment begins with clash as trial kicks off

By Yana Berman

Donald Trump faces charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress

Donald Trump. Source: AP Images

Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing in the US Senate, which has a Republican majority, began with a clash on January 21. The Democrats failed to pass three amendments crucial for the trial, including evidence on the Ukraine case. Still, the Republicans were forced to find a middle ground amid the pressure.

What are the amendments?

The debate focused on the initial format of the trial offered by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican and majority leader. The Democrats immediately accused him and his fellow Republicans of trying to conceal Trump’s illegal actions.

The three amendments the Democrats were trying to pass all relate to additional evidence that could prove Trump’s abuse of power.

The first amendment would allow subpoenaing White House documents that Trump’s administration had previously refused to release.

The second one would demand a subpoena of papers from the State Department, including Trump’s correspondence with current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials. The Democrats believe that many of these officials have been forced into not testifying.

The third and most important one relates to documents from the Office of Management and Budget that could contain evidence of suspending military aid to Ukraine – an event that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

All three amendments were voted down by the Republicans, 53 against 47.

Which concessions have the Republicans made?

Despite the fact that the important amendments were rejected, the Republicans were still forced to make last-minute changes to the plan.

McConnell presented a modified version with two significant changes, one of which allows evidence collected during the House impeachment inquiry to be automatically entered into the trial record.

Moreover, McConnell refused to push the key testimonies into the early morning. He gave both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defence team an additional 24 hours to discuss the case and present their evidence.

Republican senators insisted that the rules for Trump's impeachment should not differ from the recent precedent, the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. Neither Clinton nor Andrew Johnson, who was impeached in 1868, had to leave office.

What will the trial look like?

The House Democrat leading the impeachment case, Adam Schiff, said in his opening statement that Americans believe the impeachment result "is pre-cooked."

Meanwhile, Trump's legal team insisted that the trial was "a dangerous perversion of the constitution," urging the president to be exonerated immediately.

However, whether Trump's allies and enemies want it or not, the impeachment trial has begun and the length of the process will depend on how many witnesses are called. McConnell insisted that the schedule would be quite intense and the Senate will be kept in session six days a week to speed up the trial. Clinton's impeachment process lasted for five weeks.

What is Trump’s reaction?

While the trial kicked off in Washington, Trump was attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

When asked about the impeachment, the US president claimed that it all was nothing but a "hoax". He said he preferred to focus on the American economic boom and the current state of the labour market rather than discussing the activities far across the ocean.

FURTHER READING: Donald Trump

FURTHER READING: US House of Representatives votes to impeach Trump

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