Trump impeachment timeline 2021

Senate not expected to convict the single-term president after trial – although process could still take weeks

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 11 February 2021 20:39 GMT
Trump impeachment lawyer says Capitol riot had ‘nothing’ to do with him

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Donald Trump is being tried for impeachment in the Senate for a second time, after proceedings against the single-term US president kicked off on Tuesday.

The trial comes almost a month after Congress was besieged by his supporters, who wrongly claimed that last year’s election was “stolen” or “rigged” after Mr Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Democrats – and some Republicans – afterwards said Mr Trump, who pushed those allegations in the months leading up to the attack on the Capitol, “incited” that very “insurrection” on 6 January.

Following his impeachment by the House on 13 January, a single article of impeachment was passed to the Senate on 25 January, paving the way for the trial to start two weeks later. Mr Trump in January became the first ever president in US history to be impeached twice.

What happens when the trial begins?

The Senate trial began on 9 February, under plans agreed to by the chamber’s Democratic and Republican leaders, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell.  

Read more: Follow live Trump impeachment updates

Senators convened around midday to begin proceedings, at which point impeachment managers – appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – started presenting their case.

The impeachment managers, who are led by Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, are expected to take several days to set out their argument, with the segment concluding around 10 or 11 February.

The eight Democrats released an 80-page brief outlining their position on Tuesday, alleging the former president’s public actions and “singular responsibility for that tragedy” that occurred on 6 January.

Mr Trump’s lawyers, also on Tuesday, were required to outline their arguments, and published a 14-page brief that incorrectly spelled “United States” in the opening lines, and argued for “free speech”.

Both parties appear to be aiming for a week-long trial.

What happens after the argument against Mr Trump has been made?

After the impeachment managers have finished their arguments to the Senate, the former US president’s lawyers will mount a counter-argument to allegations he caused the Capitol riot, also verbally.

That could come on 11 February, a Saturday, under rules dating back three decades that demand Senators sit for six days a week during the impeachment process, The Washington Post reported.

While they will have the same time as the impeachment managers to present to the Senate, it is not clear whether or not there will be an opportunity to object to points already made by the managers.

Senate president pro tempore Patrick Leahy, who will preside over the trial, would rule on, or allow, senators to debate Mr Trump’s lawyer’s objections – which could take some time.

When do Senators start questioning? 

After both sides set-out arguments, attention turns to senators themselves, who will act as jurors in the trial.

Senators will send arguments in written form to Sen. Leahy, who will direct questions to the impeachment managers or Mr Trump’s lawyers.

Read more: How will Trump’s second impeachment trial compare to his first?

They had only 16 hours to do so when Mr Trump faced his first impeachment trial in January 2020, and this time around, that point could come sometime around 15 or 16 February.

Around four hours were set aside on Tuesday for debate over the constitutionality of the impeachment hearings. Republican Senators have argued that the trial is unconstitutional because a former president cannot be impeached. In the end, 56 senators, including six Republicans, voted that the process was constitutional.

Will witnesses be called?

The Senate will then decide whether they will call on witnesses and documents, with a debate preceding a vote on whether to do so.

Democrats, who hold the deciding vote in the Senate, will be expected to win a vote on calling witnesses, and will begin tabling motions to subpoena them, to support their arguments against Mr Trump.

The former president’s lawyers would in this case also be expected to call on witnesses to support their defence.

Will the Senate vote to convict Mr Trump?

While Mr Trump’s previous impeachment trials took three weeks, this trial could be shorter after a majority of Republicans recently voted to dismiss the trial outright.

The vote, which did not pass, was still a sign that the Senate will not vote by the two-thirds (or 60 votes) needed to convict the former president.

Read more: The 13 biggest takeaways from Democrats impeachment brief against Donald Trump

It means that Democrats, who are also keen to allow US president Joe Biden to pass his legislative agenda through Congress, will not spend too much time on the proceedings.

The argument that Mr Trump “incited” the mob who attacked Congress is also publicly evident – and so will be expected to take-up less time debating.

Following a vote on whether to convict the former president, the Senate will then likely vote separately barring Mr Trump from holding future office. This will require only majority support.  

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in