Biden ‘doesn’t think’ Senate will convict Trump, but says second impeachment ‘has to happen’

Former president’s unprecedented second Senate trial set to start on week of 8 February

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
@graemekmassie,Chris Riotta@chrisriotta
Tuesday 26 January 2021 15:36

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President Joe Biden has reportedly indicated he does not believe Democrats in the US Senate will have enough votes to convict Donald Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial.

In a brief interview with CNN in the halls of the West Wing, the new president said he thinks the trial “has to happen” despite his call for lawmakers to focus on providing immediate relief to Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it has to happen,” Mr Biden said about the impeachment trial on Monday, suggesting there could be “a worse effect if it didn’t happen” in the weeks ahead.

At least 17 Republican senators would have to join the 50 Democrats in the Senate for a conviction against Mr Trump.

Mr Biden added: “The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn’t changed that much."

The Senate was scheduled to begin the former president’s second impeachment trial on the week of 8 February, with thousands of National Guard troops remaining stationed at the US Capitol to protect lawmakers following the deadly riots earlier this month as Congress convened to certify the 2020 election.

Democratic senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont will preside over the trial, instead of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over the former president’s first impeachment. Mr Trump will be represented by South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers.

The Constitution dictates that the chief justice presides over a trial involving a sitting president, but in other cases it is a senator that takes the position.

Mr Trump is still trying to complete his legal team and is struggling to find lawyers willing to represent him, according to CNN.

Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Mr Trump, said he spoke to him over the weekend and “wouldn’t think” the ex-president would return to Washington DC from Florida for the trial.

“Well, I think he’d like to get it over with,” said Mr Graham.

"We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D—NY) said on Friday while announcing the Senate impeachment trial schedule. “But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.”

Mr Biden has largely avoided weighing in on the upcoming impeachment trial — the first time in American history in which a president has been impeached twice, as well as after their tenure in the White House.

In a statement released earlier this month, Mr Biden noted the numerous crises the United States was facing, from heightened racial inequities and climate change to the worsening pandemic nationwide.

"This nation also remains in the grip of a deadly virus and a reeling economy," he said. "I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation."

The Senate trial has begun taking shape in recent days, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D—CA) saying Congress selected a team of nine House impeachment managers who were “ready to begin to make their case” against the former president, who is accused of fomenting the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, which left at least five dead, including United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

The White House deferred to the Senate for requests about specific information on the upcoming trial during a Friday press briefing. Jen Psaki, Mr Biden’s White House press secretary, said at the hearing the president believed Mr Trump should be convicted. But she also said he was focused on ensuring Congress passed legislative relief for Americans.

“We don’t think it can be delayed or it can wait, so they’re going to have to find a path forward,” she said about the pandemic aid. “He’s confident they can do that.”

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