Donald Trump impeachment trial nears end with verdict expected

The US Senate was expected to deliver a verdict in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial this weekend after his lawyers argued on Friday that the former president bears no responsibility for an attack by supporters on Congress after he failed to win re-election. Defense lawyers wrapped up their presentation in just three hours, accusing Democrats of persecuting Trump.

After two days of presentations, including hours of graphic video from the pro-Trump riot that swept the Capitol January 6, Democratic impeachment managers called on senators to vote for conviction. The Senate was due to reconvene Saturday at 10:00 am (1500 GMT) for debate on whether to allow witness testimony, then closing arguments. Expectations were that a verdict could be voted the same day, with indications so far that Democrats will not get enough Republican support for a conviction. In their arguments Friday, defense lawyer Michael van der Veen called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance.” Trump’s defense lawyers will deliver their case on Friday, arguing that Trump cannot be held personally responsible for the deadly assault on Congress. But Democratic impeachment managers charge that Trump deliberately stoked national tension after losing to Joe Biden on November 3 with a campaign of lies claiming there had been mass voter fraud.

On January 6 he staged a fiery rally near the White House, calling on the crowd to march on Congress, which was in the process of certifying Biden’s victory. The mob then charged the Capitol building, disrupting the certification. Five people, including a police officer and a woman shot during the unrest, died as a result of the mayhem. Impeachment managers say Trump, who has never expressed remorse for his encouragement of the violent crowd, is so dangerous that he should be barred from holding office again. It would take a two-thirds majority to convict, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats.