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House To Deliver Impeachment Article Against Trump To Senate

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Tonight, for the second time in a little more than a year, House impeachment managers will stride across the Capitol and set in motion an impeachment trial in the Senate. They will be delivering a single article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump for what the House says was his role in inciting the riot at the Capitol on January 6. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is taking aim at Trump, rejecting some Republican arguments that the former president should escape accountability because he isn't president anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: He has not even acknowledged his role in the events of January 6, and he has never disavowed the lies that were fed to the American people by him about who actually won the election.

CHANG: All right, here with the latest is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So what do we expect to see happen today specifically?

GRISALES: Today marks a ceremonial start to get this trial started. We'll see the House clerk and acting sergeant at arms leading this team of nine impeachment managers to the Senate. It's reminiscent of what we saw just over a year ago after Trump was impeached a first time. But this time around, Jamie Raskin of Maryland will lead this new nine-member team of managers, and then he'll read the article in the chamber.

Tomorrow, the senators will be sworn in, and the Senate will issue its summons for Trump. That's followed next week by more pretrial steps. And then on Monday, February 8, briefs are due from both sides. And then the following day, the trial will get underway when senators will have to again sit quietly as jurors for days and hours at a time. Another change we'll see this time around will feature the president pro tem, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. He'll be presiding rather than Chief Justice John Roberts since this trial doesn't involve a sitting president.

CHANG: OK, so those are some of the logistics. Explain why the Senate will be waiting two weeks before starting this trial.

GRISALES: This was a result of an agreement reached between Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell had asked for more time for the president's defense team to prepare. Meanwhile, Democrats have their own concerns. They're still in limbo without a deal with Republicans in place to dictate how this chamber, now split 50-50, will share power on committees. Also, since all Senate business stops with the trial, this pause gives Democrats a chance to confirm more of Biden's nominees, with only two confirmed this past week. This as Democrats also hope to get more legwork done on a $1.9 trillion Biden proposal for new wave of coronavirus relief. This comes on the heels of a Sunday meeting between a group of moderate senators and House members with White House economic adviser Brian Deese to figure out a way forward there.

CHANG: Right. And, Claudia, what is your sense at this point of how many Republican senators are even seriously considering to convict Trump?

GRISALES: There's a possibility at least a few Republicans could join Democrats to convict Trump, especially the moderate members who have already said Trump played a role in citing that January 6 mob. And McConnell has also left the door open there for a potential that he, too, could be considering a vote to convict the president. A conviction would set up another vote to lock Trump out from serving in federal office ever again.

But it's a tall order. Democrats would need a two-thirds majority to convict. So that's 17 Republicans who would have to join Democrats. Meanwhile, the GOP is dealing with their own intraparty challenges, fueled with how to move the party forward with or without Trump. Just today, another key GOP senator, Rob Portman of Ohio, said he'll be leaving his seat in 2022. This sets up a new Senate battle for Democrats. And he joins Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina, who are also leaving in two years. So they have a lot to contend with, and the Trump trial is compounding pressures for what direction Republicans may or may not take with their party.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.