Trump impeachment: Democrats and Republicans clash over rules

The Senate trial about whether to remove Donald J Trump from office - only the third ever held for a United States president - is finally getting underway.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his resolution outlining the next steps, including a week of hours-long opening arguments, on Monday.

The vote is a culmination of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over what would constitute a fair trial.

"Leader McConnell's process is deliberately created to hide the truth from the Senate and from the American people, because he knows that the President's wrongdoing is indefensible and demands removal", Pelosi wrote.

Votes on the trial rules could take place as early as Tuesday.

"This is a process for a rigged trial", he charged.

The trial could in theory lead to Trump being removed from office, but because a two-thirds majority - 67 votes in the 100-seat Senate - is required to convict and oust him and there are only 47 Democrats in the Senate, the president is widely expected to be cleared.

During the Clinton trial, a motion to dismiss was considered toward the end of the trial, and it was advanced by a USA senator, not the White House.

But Trump looks nearly certain to be acquitted because of the 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate.

McConnell backed off the condensed two-day schedule to add a third for opening arguments after protests from senators, including Republicans.

Once U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, gavels the session into order the chamber will vote on McConnell's resolution, setting the parameters of the trial.

The key question of whether to call witnesses and which ones to call will be considered with up to four hours of argument by the White House and House Democrats.

McConnell's resolution does not specifically allow for witnesses to testify, and Democrats promise to try to guarantee witnesses, documents and other evidence to be part of the trial.

Republican moderate Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are also being closely watched for their take on the rules governing the presidential's trial.

Schiff, who is leading the House impeachment managers team prosecuting the case against Trump, nevertheless urged Republican senators to force McConnell to change his proposal. A senior GOP leadership aide said that was because of a lack of due process for the president in the House proceedings.

Trump himself, in Davos, Switzerland, for an economic conference, denounced the proceedings as "a total hoax", as he does daily, and said, "I'm sure it's going to work out fine".

The president also has repeatedly dismissed the impeachment as a political witch hunt. If they believe he has critical firsthand information, they could push for a vote on whether to depose him or call him for public testimony, but that would require Republican support.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives and led the investigation, accuse Trump of manipulating Ukraine by withholding almost $400 million in military aid for its war against Russian-backed separatists and a White House meeting for Zelensky until the latter announced a Biden probe.

The 171-page brief submitted by Trump's legal team is the first comprehensive defence of the president, ahead of the trial beginning in earnest. The Republicans hold a majority with 53 senators, and that majority means that four Republican senators would have to join democrats to crack the "magic number" of 51 necessary to agree on critical procedural issues like witness testimony and submission of additional evidence from investigators.



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