The US House of Representatives has delivered to the Senate a charge that former president Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial.
Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Mr Trump’s trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, on Tuesday (AEDT) carried the charge against Mr Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol.
Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on January 6 as they clashed with police.
On arrival in the Senate, the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Jamie Raskin, read out the charge.
“Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanours by inciting violence against the government of the United States,” he said.
Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Mr Trump on January 13.
But Senate Democrats will need the support of 17 Republicans to convict him in the evenly divided chamber, a steep climb given the continued allegiance to Mr Trump among the Republican Party’s conservative base of voters.
President Joe Biden said on Monday he did not believe there would be enough votes to convict Mr Trump, according to CNN, citing a brief interview with Mr Trump’s Democratic successor.
Mr Trump, a Republican, is the only US president to have been impeached by the House twice and is set to become the first to face trial after leaving office.
The Senate is expected to start a trial on February 9 on the article of impeachment against Mr Trump.
The 100 senators are due to serve as jurors in proceedings that could result in Mr Trump’s disqualification from ever again serving as president.
Democrat Patrick Leahy, the Senate’s longest-serving member, said on Monday he would preside over the trial.
A number of Republican lawmakers have objected to the impeachment, some arguing that it would be a violation of the Constitution to hold a trial now because Trump no longer serves as president.
The Senate is divided 50-50, with Democrats holding a majority because of the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Senate leaders agreed on Friday to put off the trial for two weeks to give Trump more time to prepare a defence and let the chamber focus on Biden’s early priorities, including Cabinet appointments.
The impeachment focuses on Mr Trump’s speech to supporters on a grassy expanse near the White House shortly before a mob stormed the Capitol, disrupted the formal certification of Mr Biden’s victory over Mr Trump in the November 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.
During his speech, Mr Trump repeated his false claims that the election was rigged against him with widespread voting fraud and irregularities.
He exhorted his supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “stop the steal,” “show strength,” “fight much harder” and use “very different rules”.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Friday found that 51 per cent of Americans thought the Senate should convict Mr Trump, breaking down largely along party lines.