What will US Congress do now that Trump has been impeached a second time?

The next major step is for the US Senate to have a trial to determine Mr Donald Trump's guilt.
The next major step is for the US Senate to have a trial to determine Mr Donald Trump's guilt.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The House of Representatives on Wednesday (Jan 13) made Mr Donald Trump the first United States president to be impeached twice, formally charging him with inciting an insurrection just a week after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol.

Here is a guide to what happens next.

Is the impeachment proceeding over?

No. Impeachment refers only to the House, the Lower Chamber of Congress, bringing charges, or Articles of Impeachment.

The next major step is for the Senate, the Upper Chamber, to have a trial to determine the President's guilt.

A two-thirds majority is needed to convict Mr Trump. If all 100 senators are present for the vote, at least 17 Republicans need to join the Democrats to convict Mr Trump.

When will the trial begin?

The Senate's Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell has rejected Democratic calls for an immediate impeachment trial and said it cannot begin until after the Senate returns from a recess on Jan 19.

That means the trial will likely begin after Mr Trump leaves office on Jan 20. The House must formally transmit the charge against Mr Trump to the Senate before the trial can begin.

What is Trump's likely defence in the Senate trial?

The House approved a single article of impeachment - a formal charge - accusing Mr Trump of "incitement of insurrection", focused on a speech he had delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol.

Mr Trump is likely to argue at trial that his remarks were free speech protected by the Constitution's First Amendment and that, while he told supporters to "fight", he did not intend it as a literal call to violence.

Mr Trump released a videotaped statement on Wednesday, shortly after the impeachment vote, saying he condemned last week's violence.

"Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement," he said.

So a former president can be impeached?

Yes. The consensus among scholars is that a "late impeachment" is constitutional.

These scholars note that impeachment is used not just to remove officials from office, but also to disqualify them from future office. That means there is still a reason to try Mr Trump after he leaves the White House.

The Constitution states that one punishment for conviction is "disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States".

Under Senate precedent, only a simple majority of Senate is needed for disqualification. Historically, that vote happens only after a conviction. It is not clear if someone must be convicted to be disqualified.

How long will the trial last?

The US Supreme Court has said that the Senate has wide latitude to set its own rules for how to conduct an impeachment. But under the current rules in effect, a trial would take at least a few days.