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House formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot

House Democrats on Monday sent to the Senate their single impeachment article against former President Trump, officially putting him on trial for his role in the deadly mob attack on the Capitol earlier in the month.

The ceremonial delivery — a somber cross-Capitol march performed by the nine Democratic House members who will prosecute the case — was a legal formality. The House had impeached Trump 12 days ago, and Senate leaders have agreed to postpone the start of the public trial until the week of Feb. 8.

The timeline itself has been strategic, allowing the newly seated President Biden some breathing room to install several top Cabinet officials and advance the debate over another massive package of coronavirus relief before the Senate becomes consumed by the highly contentious impeachment trial. 

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The details of that trial remain opaque. Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCongress holds candlelight vigil for American lives lost to COVID-19 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers investigate Jan. 6 security failures Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador MORE (D-N.Y.) has revealed neither how long the process will last nor if Democrats will invite witness testimony to boost their case. But Democrats in both chambers have predicted the exercise will be shorter than the 21-day trial in 2020 after Trump was impeached on two charges related to his dealings with Ukraine.

Then, the Republican-controlled Senate cleared Trump of both charges, with only one GOP senator, Utah’s Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears MORE, voting to convict the president on allegations that he’d abused his power.

This time around, the landscape is different — and the math is expected to be as well. 

Not only is Trump no longer in office, but his effort to rouse thousands of his supporters to march on the Capitol to block Congress from formalizing Biden’s victory has been denounced by even some of his most devoted supporters. 

Ten House Republicans joined every Democrat in impeaching Trump just seven days after the violent mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, killing a police officer and threatening violence against any lawmaker of either party poised to certify the election results, including Trump’s own vice president, Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Supreme Court's blow to Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - COVID-19 rescue bill a unity test for Dems MORE

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The single article charges Trump with "willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States."

The trial phase puts Senate Republicans in a jam, forced to choose between defending their party’s standard-bearer or sending a message to future presidents that encouraging mobs to nullify state-certified elections won’t go unpunished. Adding to the pressure on GOP senators has been the long list of Republican figures outside Congress voicing outrage at Trump’s actions. 

“What we had was an incitement to riot at the United States Capitol. We had people killed, and to me there’s not a whole lot of question here,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieCancun fallout threatens to deal lasting damage to Cruz On The Trail: The political perils of Snowmageddon Ex-Christie aide cleared by Supreme Court in 'Bridgegate' scandal running for local office MORE, one of Trump’s earliest GOP backers, said just after the riot. “If inciting to insurrection isn’t [impeachable], I don’t really know what it is.”

Still, the former president retains enormous sway over base voters in the GOP, the majority of whom blame Biden for the Capitol siege.

And Senate Republicans are already lining up against Trump’s conviction. Some maintain he did nothing wrong, suggesting without evidence that rampant fraud turned the election for Biden. Others are posing a legal argument, saying it’s unconstitutional to impeach a former president. Still others are making a political case, warning that the country is too violently divided to withstand another impeachment trial. 

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“We already have a flaming fire in this country,” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary DeSantis easily defeats Rubio, Scott in hypothetical presidential primary: poll MORE (R-Fla.) told “Fox News Sunday.” “And it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.”

Those arguments have been roundly rejected by Democrats, who say Trump committed crimes of sedition on live TV and must face the consequences. While he is no longer in office, they’re fighting for a Senate conviction to bar him from running again. 

“We must not give Donald Trump a pass for inciting a deadly insurrection on our Capitol just a few weeks ago,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a key figure in Trump’s first impeachment, said Monday. “He must be held accountable.” 

Unlike Trump's last impeachment, where Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presided, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him MORE (D-Vt.), the Senate pro tempore and a frequent Trump critic, will be presiding over this trial. But Leahy pushed back on any suggestion he would tip the scale in favor of the prosecuting Democrats.

“I'm not presenting the evidence; I’m making sure that procedures are followed,” he told reporters on Monday. “I don't think there's any senator who over the 40-plus years I've been here would say that I've been anything but impartial in ruling on procedure.”

The formal transmission of the article came near the close of a hectic and historic month. Over a span of two weeks, the country saw an unprecedented mob attack on the seat of its democracy, the first impeachment of a president for the second time in his tenure, the inauguration of its oldest new president and a vice president who broke through barriers of both race and gender, and the 400,000th death from the coronavirus pandemic.

Five people died in the Capitol attack, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. And scores of officers from both the Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police forces were injured.

During Monday’s solemn ceremony, acting Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett and Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson led the procession of the nine impeachment managers through some of the same ornate, historical spaces the rioters had poured into during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The managers, all wearing matching black masks, passed through Statuary Hall, the old House chamber; walked past the Speaker’s Office, where some rioters had ripped Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Curator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE's (D-Calif.) nameplate off the wall; through the majestic Rotunda, where assailants engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police; and finally to the doors of the Senate chamber, which rioters breached in their failed quest to overturn the election. 

The nine Democrats who will prosecute the case against Trump are all Pelosi loyalists. She tapped Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinOfficer on Capitol riot: 'Is this America? They beat police officers with Blue Lives Matter flags' Considering impeachment's future National Guard at the Capitol: Too costly — and not just in money MORE (Md.), a former constitutional law professor, to serve as the lead impeachment manager. The others are Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHouse Democrats press Facebook on role as a 'breeding ground for polarization' COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase House Democrats criticize Texas's 'shortcomings in preparations' on winter storms MORE (Colo.), David CicillineDavid CicillineDemocrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line This week: House to vote on Biden's .9 trillion coronavirus bill Biden urges swift passage of Equality Act MORE (R.I.), Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroTexas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout DC bureau chief for The Intercept: Impeachment managers became 'like the dog who caught the car' when permitted to call witnesses Key GOP senators question when Trump knew Capitol was breached MORE (Texas), Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellThe Memo: New riot footage stuns Trump trial New security video shows lawmakers fleeing during Capitol riot Newly released footage shows Schumer's 'near miss' with Capitol rioters MORE (Calif.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuPelosi, lawmakers denounce violence against Asian Americans Riot probe to likely focus on McCarthy-Trump call Progressives urge Biden pick for attorney general to prosecute Trump MORE (Calif.) Madeleine DeanMadeleine DeanDC bureau chief for The Intercept: Impeachment managers became 'like the dog who caught the car' when permitted to call witnesses Democrats dismiss claims they misrepresented evidence during impeachment trial LIVE COVERAGE: Trial ends for day as Senate moves to vote MORE (Pa.) and Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid | Biden honeymoon with green groups faces tests | Electric vehicles are poised to aid Biden in climate fight Democratic impeachment manager: Trump trial could have lasted years if witnesses were called Democrats warn of 'whataboutism' ahead of Trump defense MORE (Colo.) and Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettStacey Plaskett jabs Cruz over Cancun getaway Riot probe to likely focus on McCarthy-Trump call Impeachment manager Plaskett: GOP senators privately said she 'made the case' against Trump MORE (D-Virgin Islands).

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Notably, Pelosi did not add any of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment to the team of managers. 

It was Raskin's task Monday evening to read the impeachment charges on the Senate floor, including warnings that Trump poses an ongoing threat "to national security, democracy and the Constitution" and therefore should be disqualified from holding "any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States."

Behind him, Leahy presided over the reading, while the senators on the floor included both Schumer and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general Trump to attend private RNC donor retreat The Patriot Party already exists — it's the Democrats MORE (R-Ky.), the minority leader who has said Trump directly "provoked" the attack on the Capitol.

More formalities will follow Tuesday, when all 100 senators will be sworn in as both judges and jurors. The Senate will then issue a formal summons to Trump, and his defense team and the prosecution will be given time to draft their legal briefs before public arguments begin next month.  

It’s highly unlikely that enough Republicans will join Democrats to meet the threshold for conviction, which requires two-thirds of the Senate. But Democratic leaders are hellbent on ensuring that senators are forced to pick a side, if only for the historical record.

“There is only one question at stake — only one question that Senators of both parties will have to answer, before God and their own conscience: Is former President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE guilty of inciting an insurrection against the United States?” Schumer said.

Updated at 7:32 p.m.