Washington DC: The Senate opened only the third presidential impeachment trial in history, swearing in the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr., as the presiding officer as senators took an oath Thursday to render “impartial justice.”
The Senate then issued a formal summons for President Trump, informing him of the charges and inviting him to respond by Saturday. Senators set a series of deadlines for Mr. Trump’s team and the House managers, and adjourned the trial for a long weekend. Behind closed doors, Senator Mitch McConnell and his aides were working to finish a resolution that would establish the contours of the first phase of the trial.
Adam B. Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, read aloud the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against Mr. Trump in the Senate chamber, laying out the case against him:
Hours before the senators took their oath, the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, determined that Mr. Trump’s administration violated the law when it withheld aid to Ukraine, an issue at the heart of the impeachment case against the president.
Democrats allege that Mr. Trump, a Republican, improperly withheld the aid to pressure Kyiv to launch investigations that would help him politically in the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing, calling the case against him a “big hoax” on Thursday. He is the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities opened a criminal probe into whether U.S. citizens placed the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under surveillance, as text messages suggest, before she was removed from her post last year by Mr. Trump. The information came to light after House Democrats released documents Tuesday showing that an associate of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was sent text messages about tracking Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine.
Democratic and GOP lawmakers continued to wrangle on Thursday over whether new witnesses and evidence will be allowed in the trial. Those issues aren’t expected to be decided until well after the trial begins in earnest on Tuesday.