Donald Trump impeachment trial begins – what to expect

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is set to begin today, as he becomes only the third US president to face such proceedings.

The hearing in the Senate, which is due to begin at 1pm local time (6pm GMT), could technically lead to Trump being removed from office but this is not expected.

What is Trump accused of?

The president, who protests his innocence, is accused of seeking help from Ukraine’s government to help himself get re-elected. He’s alleged to have held back millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine as bargaining chips.

Trump allegedly wanted Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, the man who’s leading the Democratic race to challenge him in the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats also accuse Trump of obstructing Congress after refusing to allow staff to testify at the first impeachment hearings last year.

Will Trump appear at the trial?

Although he is permitted to appear before the Senate in person, most believe he will let his representatives speak for him.

Who are the key personnel?

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, and his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer, will preside at the trial in which lawyers for both sides will speak and present witnesses.

Seven Democrats will be the prosecutors for the House, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

President Trump’s defence team will be headed by special prosecutors from Bill Clinton’s impeachment: Ken Starr and Robert Ray. Alan Dershowitz, whose past clients include OJ Simpson, is also part of Team Trump.

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How long will the trial take?

The hearing is expected to last for weeks, says the BBC, “but how many is anybody’s guess”.

The Guardian reports that McConnell has unveiled proposals aimed at “rushing through the trial as quickly as possible”.

After the evidence has been heard, senators will be given a day to deliberate. A two-thirds majority of 67 votes in the 100-seat Senate is required to convict Trump and remove him from power.

However, Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans (47 to 53) so the president is expected to be cleared.

Are the hearings public?

Mostly. CNN says there’s expected to be at least one closed session on Tuesday “which will feel very strange, but is needed, according to Senate leaders, because senators aren’t allowed to speak during the trial (among other rules like not using their phones and standing when they vote) and they’ll have to debate at times about how to proceed”.

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