Donald Trump’s impeachment timeline – what could happen next?

Thursday, January 14

On Jan 14, top Democrats and Republicans discussed how best to stage a Senate trial about whether to convict Mr Trump of the single article of impeachment, for “incitement of insurrection”, that passed the House of Representatives.

It seems all but certain that the Republican leadership’s request for the trial to begin after Mr Biden’s inauguration as president on Jan 20 will be agreed, meaning senators would be debating conviction with Mr Trump out of office.

It remains unclear when the trial will take place.

The House can decide when to send the article of impeachment across to the Senate to trigger the trial. Some Democrats want to wait until months into Mr Biden’s presidency to do so, freeing Senate time at the start of his term for confirming his cabinet nominees and passing measures to tackle Covid-19.

Wednesday, January 20

The inauguration. At noon Washington DC time, Joe Biden becomes the US president and Mr Trump’s term is over. Mr Trump has said he will not attend the ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol.

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Donald Trump directs US government to restrict goods from China to ‘reduce risk from espionage’

In another action against China days before he leaves office, US President Donald Trump on Friday directed government departments to look at ways to minimise procurement of Chinese goods and services to reduce the risks from espionage, his national security adviser said.In a statement, Robert O’Brien accused China of targeting the information systems of the US government for personnel records, military plans, and other data through cyber and other means.“For this reason, the United States must…

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Donald Trump has been impeached for a second time: Now what?

President Donald Trump has been impeached by the House days before leaving office, becoming the first American president to be impeached twice.

The previous three impeachments — those of Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump — took months before a final vote, including investigations in the House and hearings. This time it only took a week after Trump encouraged a crowd of his supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats and 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump on one charge: incitement of insurrection.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will not begin a trial until next Tuesday, at the very earliest, which is the day before Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in as president. It’s unclear, for now, exactly how that trial will proceed and if any Senate Republicans will vote to convict Trump.

Even though the trial won’t happen until Trump is already out of office, it could still have the effect of preventing him from running for president again.

Sending to the Senate

Once the House votes to impeach, the speaker of the House can send the article or articles over to the Senate immediately — or she can wait a while. Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send them, but many Democrats in her caucus have urged her to do so immediately.

Pelosi has already appointed nine impeachment managers to argue the case against Trump in a Senate trial, a sign that she will send them sooner rather than later.

Once the articles are sent over — that is usually done with an official walk from the House to the Senate — then the majority leader of the Senate must start the process of having a trial.

The Senate is not scheduled to be in session until Jan. 19, which could be McConnell’s last day as Senate leader. Once Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn in, making her the president of the Senate, and Georgia’s two Democratic senators are also sworn in, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will take charge and determine how the trial will proceed.

McConnell said he will not bring the Senate back on an emergency basis to start the trial, so the earliest it could begin would be Tuesday. That means the trial is certain to take place after Trump has already left office.

McConnell noted that the three previous Senate trials lasted “83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively.”

All eyes on McConnell

McConnell believes that Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

And McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations. His wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, resigned from Trump’s Cabinet soon after the riots.

But despite sending signals, McConnell has been characteristically quiet in public. In a note to colleagues Wednesday released by his office, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

If McConnell voted to convict, other Republicans would surely follow. But no GOP senators have said how they will vote, and two-thirds of the Senate is needed.

Still, some Republicans have told Trump to resign, including Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and few are defending him.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has said he would take a look at what the House approves but stopped short of committing to support it.

Other Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, long a key ally of the president, has been critical of his behavior in inciting the riots but said impeachment “will do far more harm than good.”

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in last year’s impeachment trial after the House impeached Trump over his dealings with the president of Ukraine.

In the House, 10 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican. Every single House Republican voted against Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.

What next for Trump?

If the Senate were to convict, lawmakers could then take a separate vote on whether to disqualify Trump from holding future office.

Schumer said Wednesday: “Make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”

In the case of federal judges who were impeached and removed from office, the Senate has taken a second vote after conviction to determine whether to bar the person from ever holding federal office again.

Only a majority of senators would be needed to ban him from future office, unlike the two-thirds needed to convict.

The charge

The four-page article of impeachment says that Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government.”

It was introduced by Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, all of whom have been tapped to serve as impeachment managers in the Senate trial.

The article says Trump’s behavior is consistent with his prior efforts to “subvert and obstruct” the results of the election and references his recent call with the Georgia secretary of state, in which he said he wanted him to find him more votes after losing the state to Biden.

Trump has falsely claimed there was widespread fraud in the election, and the baseless claims have been repeatedly echoed by congressional Republicans and the insurgents who descended on the Capitol.

As the protesters broke in, both chambers were debating GOP challenges to the electoral vote count in Arizona as part of the process for certifying Biden’s election win.

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Twitter boss backs Donald Trump ban but warns of ‘dangerous’ precedent

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey says banning President Donald Trump from the social media platform after last week’s violence at the US Capitol was the “right decision,” but it sets a dangerous precedent.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week removed Mr Trump’s account, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president.

While Mr Dorsey backed the decision on Twitter on Thursday, he said having to ban an account had “real and significant ramifications”.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Mr Dorsey said on Twitter. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

The ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

In his Twitter thread, Mr Dorsey said while he took no pride in the ban, “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all”.

Even so, he added, “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures in the past year such as labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Mr Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy”, conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behaviour.

The Twitter CEO said bans by social media companies on Mr Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions even though they were not co-ordinated. But in the long term, the precedent set “will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet”.

Supporters of Mr Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Mr Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

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YouTube is the latest online platform to suspend Donald Trump over violence concerns

Google-owned YouTube has temporarily suspended US President Donald Trump’s channel and removed a video for violating its policy against inciting violence, joining other social media platforms in banning his accounts after last week’s Capitol riot.

Mr Trump’s access to the social media platforms he has used as a megaphone during his presidency has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington DC last week.

Operators say the embittered leader could use his accounts to foment more unrest in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to Donald J. Trump’s channel for violating our policies,” YouTube said in a statement on Tuesday local time.

The channel is now “temporarily prevented from uploading new content for a ‘minimum’ of 7 days,” the statement read.

The video-sharing platform also said it will be “indefinitely disabling comments” on Mr Trump’s channel because of safety concerns.

Facebook last week suspended Mr Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following the violent invasion of the US Capitol, which temporarily disrupted the certification of Mr Biden’s election victory.

In announcing the suspension last week, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said Mr Trump used the platform to incite violent and was concerned he would continue to do so. 

Twitter went a step further by deleting Mr Trump’s account, depriving him of his favorite platform. It was already marking his tweets disputing the election outcome with warnings.

The company also deleted more than 70,000 accounts linked to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims, without any evidence, that Mr Trump is waging a secret war against a global cabal of satanist liberals.

Mr Trump also was hit with suspensions by services like Snapchat and Twitch. 

The US president’s YouTube account has amassed 2.77 million subscribers. 

The home page of the Trump channel featured a month-old video of Mr Trump casting doubt on the voting process in November’s presidential election, and had logged some 5.8 million views.

On Tuesday, an activist group called on YouTube to join other platforms in dumping Mr Trump’s accounts, threatening an advertising boycott campaign.

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US politics live updates: House Democrats set to vote to impeach Donald Trump for historic second time

A vote to impeach President Donald Trump is expected mid-afternoon in Washington DC. So here’s an overview in three posts

From the Associated Press: 

President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time with the House planning the unprecedented vote one week after he encouraged a mob of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results and the US Capitol became the target of a deadly siege.

While the first impeachment of Mr Trump last year brought no Republican votes in the House, a small but significant number of politicians are breaking with the party to join the Democrats.

They are unwilling to put American decency and democracy at further risk, even with days remaining in the president’s term. 

The stunning collapse of Mr Trump’s final days in office, against alarming warnings of more violence ahead by his followers, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated January 20. 

“If inviting a mob to insurrection against your own government is not an impeachable event, then what is?” said Representative Jamie Raskin, who drafted the articles of impeachment.

Mr Trump, who would become the only US president twice impeached, faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Mr Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, in building its case for high crimes and misdemeanors as demanded in the Constitution.

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No, Twitter is not censoring Donald Trump. Free speech is not guaranteed if it harms others

The recent storming of the US Capitol has led a number of social media platforms to remove President Donald Trump’s account. In the case of Twitter, the ban is permanent. Others, like Facebook, have taken him offline until after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

This has led to a flurry of commentary in the Australian media about “free speech”. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said he is “uncomfortable” with Twitter’s removal of Mr Trump, while the acting prime minister, Michael McCormack, has described it as “censorship”.

Meanwhile, MPs like Craig Kelly and George Christensen continue to ignore the evidence and promote misinformation about the nature of the violent, pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol.

A growing number of MPs are also reportedly calling for consistent and transparent rules to be applied by online platforms in a bid to combat hate speech and other types of harmful speech.

Some have conflated this effort with the restrictions on Mr Trump’s social media usage, as though both of these issues reflect the same problem.

Much of this commentary is misguided, wrong and confusing. So let’s pull it apart a bit.

There is no free speech ‘right’ to incite violence

There is no free speech argument in existence that suggests an incitement of lawlessness and violence is protected speech.

Quite to the contrary. Nineteenth century free speech proponent John Stuart Mill argued the sole reason one’s liberty may be interfered with (including restrictions on free speech) is “self-protection” — in other words, to protect people from harm or violence.

Additionally, incitement to violence is a criminal offence in all liberal democratic orders. There is an obvious reason for this: violence is harmful. It harms those who are immediately targeted (five people died in the riots last week) and those who are intimidated as a result of the violence to take action or speak up against it.

It also harms the institutions of democracy themselves, which rely on elections rather than civil wars and a peaceful transfer of power.

To suggest taking action against speech that incites violence is “censoring” the speaker is completely misleading.

There is no free speech ‘right’ to appear on a particular platform

There is also no free speech argument that guarantees any citizen the right to express their views on a specific platform.

It is ludicrous to suggest there is. If this “right” were to exist, it would mean any citizen could demand to have their opinions aired on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and, if refused, claim their free speech had been violated.

What does exist is a general right to express oneself in public discourse, relatively free from regulation, as long as one’s speech does not harm others.

Mr Trump still possesses this right. He has a podium in the West Wing designed for this specific purpose, which he can make use of at any time.

Were he to do so, the media would cover what he says, just as they covered his comments prior to, during and immediately after the riots. This included him telling the rioters that he loved them and that they were “very special”.

Does the fact he’s the president change this?

In many free speech arguments, political speech is accorded a higher level of protection than other forms of speech (such as commercial speech, for example). Does the fact this debate concerns the president of the United States change things?

No, it does not. There is no doubt Mr Trump has been given considerable leeway in his public commentary prior to — and during the course of — his presidency. However, he has now crossed a line into stoking imminent lawlessness and violence.

This cannot be protected speech just because it is “political”. If this was the case, it would suggest the free speech of political elites can and should have no limits at all.

Yet, in all liberal democracies – even the United States which has the strongest free speech protection in the world – free speech has limits. These include the incitement of violence and crime.

Are social media platforms over-censoring?

The last decade or so has seen a vigorous debate over the attitudes and responses of social media platforms to harmful speech.

The big tech companies have staunchly resisted being asked to regulate speech, especially political speech, on their platforms. They have enjoyed the profits of their business model, while specific types of users – typically the marginalised – have borne the costs.

However, platforms have recently started to respond to demands and public pressure to address the harms of the speech they facilitate – from countering violent extremism to fake accounts, misinformation, revenge porn and hate speech.

They have developed community standards for content moderation that are publicly available. They release regular reports on their content moderation processes.

Facebook has even created an independent oversight board to arbitrate disputes over their decision making on content moderation.

They do not always do very well at this. One of the core problems is their desire to create algorithms and policies that are applicable universally across their global operations. But such a thing is impossible when it comes to free speech. Context matters in determining whether and under what circumstances speech can harm. This means they make mistakes.

Where to now?

The calls by MPs Anne Webster and Sharon Claydon to address hate speech online are important. They are part of the broader push internationally to find ways to ensure the benefits of the internet can be enjoyed more equally, and that a person’s speech does not silence or harm others.

Arguments about harm are longstanding, and have been widely accepted globally as forming a legitimate basis for intervention.

But the suggestion Mr Trump has been censored is simply wrong. It misleads the public into believing all “free speech” claims have equal merit. They do not.

We must work to ensure harmful speech is regulated in order to ensure broad participation in the public discourse that is essential to our lives — and to our democracy. Anything less is an abandonment of the principles and ethics of governance.The Conversation

Katharine Gelber has received funding from the Australian Research Council.

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Mike Pence rejects invoking the 25th amendment to remove Donald Trump

US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday (local time) told House leaders he does not support invoking the 25th amendment process to remove Donald Trump, all but guaranteeing an imminent impeachment vote against the president.

“With just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment,” Mr Pence wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the process that would declare Mr Trump unable to fulfill his duties and install Mr Pence as acting president for the remainder of the term.

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution,” he said, hours before the House was to vote on a measure calling on him to initiate the 25th Amendment process or risk an impeachment vote against Trump.

More to come.

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US politics live updates: Donald Trump speaks at border wall as FBI warns of ‘hundreds’ of cases to come from Capitol attacks

Joint Chiefs of Staff issue statement condemning violence, confirming Biden’s election

For those not super familiar with the US military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are the absolute top dogs from all of the various arms of the US military. The kind of generals with more medals than chest to pin it on you see sat around big rounds tables in Hollywood movies when they’re discussing how Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum will save the earth from an alien invasion.

Today they’ve issued a letter calling what happened on January 6 a “direct attack on the US Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process”.

“We witness actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to violence, sedition and insurrection,” the letter says.

The statement also has this paragraph:

“On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Command in Chief.”

Apologies for the quality of the letter, but you can see the full statement below.

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Donald Trump says he’s at ‘zero risk’ of being removed from office by 25th Amendment as he arrives in Texas

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged Tuesday that arch-enemy Iran has become a new “home base” for al-Qaeda worse than Afghanistan, an assertion questioned by experts.

In a speech a week before leaving office, Mr Pompeo confirmed a New York Times report that al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed last year in Tehran, although he did not say that Israel carried it out.

“Al-Qaeda has a new home base. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr Pompeo said in a speech at the National Press Club. “I would say Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan – as the key geographic hub for al-Qaeda – but it’s actually worse.” 

“Unlike in Afghanistan, when al-Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, al-Qaeda today is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”

“Tehran has allowed al-Qaeda to fund-raise, to freely communicate with other al-Qaeda members around the world and perform many other functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Mr Pompeo urged more international pressure, calling the alleged alliance a “massive force for evil all over the world.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the allegations, tweeting: “No one is fooled. All 9/11 terrorists came” from Pompeo’s “favourite” Middle East “destinations” he added. “NONE from Iran.”

The majority of the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York came from US-ally Saudi Arabia.

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