WASHINGTON • The United States 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 US 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, carried the charge against Mr Trump to the Senate on Monday 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 Mr Trump's supporters took on Jan 6 as they clashed with the 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 Jan 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 that 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.
Over 30 Democrats were present to hear Mr Raskin's remarks, and just three Republicans: Senate party leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Roger Marshall, who was just elected last November.
Capitol Police were scattered along the lawmakers' route from the House to the Senate and security around the Capitol remained tight, with roads closed off and barbed wire-topped fencing.
Many of the National Guard troops deployed after Jan 6 had been sent home, but thousands remained.
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. His term ended last Wednesday.
The Senate is expected to start a trial on Feb 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 that he would preside over the trial.
Although the Constitution calls on the US Chief Justice to preside over presidential impeachments, a senator presides when the impeached is not the current president, a Senate source said.
First elected to the chamber in 1974, Mr Leahy, 80, holds the title of Senate president pro tempore.
Chief Justice John Roberts presided over the impeachment trial when the Senate, then controlled by Republicans, acquitted Mr Trump last February on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress arising from his request that Ukraine investigate Mr Biden and his son.
Mr Leahy will still be able to vote in the trial, an aide said.
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 Mr Trump no longer serves as president.
"I still have concerns about the constitutionality of this, and then the precedent it sets in trying to convict a private citizen," Republican Senator Joni Ernst said.
"So in future, can this be used against former president Barack Obama?" she asked.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, rejected that argument on Monday.
"The theory that the Senate can't try former officials would amount to a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for any president," Mr Schumer told the Senate.
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 last Friday to put off the trial for two weeks to give Mr Trump more time to prepare a defence and to let the Chamber focus on Mr Biden's early priorities, including Cabinet appointments.