Can a senator be charged?

US President Donald Trump is the first President in US history to be indicted twice by the House of Representatives. But how does such a procedure work? What has to be considered this time, shortly after the change of government? And how do the Republicans behave? Answers to the most important questions:

How does the impeachment procedure, which was approved by Congress on January 13th, work?

Impeachment proceedings are vaguely reminiscent of legal proceedings. The House of Representatives acts as the indictment and the Senate acts as the court.

Only the House of Representatives can set it in motion. It has the sole right to bring charges against an incumbent president. All that is needed is a resolution that has to be passed by an absolute majority of the MPs. This must include the charges and a reason. With the decision, the President is formally indicted.

In a second step, the Senate must then check whether the indictment is upheld. On the one hand, whether things happened as described in the indictment. And secondly, whether these actions are sufficient to remove the president from office. The lawsuit is represented in the Senate by a delegation from the House of Representatives. His lawyers speak for the president.

What role do the senators play?

Each of the 100 senators is a judge in the trial. The current presiding judge at the Supreme Court, in this case John Roberts, has presided over an impeachment process. That should be different in the Trump process. The Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer and the Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell have agreed that the "President pro tempore" of the Senate will take over the leadership of the impeachment process instead of Roberts. This is currently Patrick Leahy, a Senator from Vermont. The "President pro tempore" is the second highest position in the Senate. He represents Vice President Kamala Harris when she is absent. Harris is also President of the Senate.

Patrick Leahy will lead the proceedings, but has no decision-making power beyond his single vote as a senator. If in the end two-thirds of the senators approve, Trump is convicted and removed from office.

There is another special feature: the senators do not have the right to speak in the proceedings. However, you can submit your questions to any witnesses in writing. Leahy then has to read them out.

Why has Trump been charged?

For "inciting an uprising". On January 6, in a seditious speech to tens of thousands of supporters in front of the White House, he urged his fans to march to the Capitol. In the run-up to his rally, Trump had advertised the event on Twitter by saying that it would be "wild". All of this led to the storming of the Capitol on the same day, say the Democrats and also some Republicans.

In addition, Trump urged electoral supervisors in Georgia to redeclare the election result in Biden's favor as a victory for Trump. In a recorded phone call, for example, he asked Interior Secretary Brad Raffensperger to "find" 11,779 votes for him that would make him a winner. This could be seen as an abuse of office and is listed in the indictment.

How long does an impeachment procedure take?

It can be very different. So far, the proceedings have taken weeks to months. In 2019, for example, it took almost three months from the announcement that the process would start in the House of Representatives to the impeachment decision on December 18. This time it was only a few days. For the trial in the Senate, the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has announced that the trial will be "fair". But it will "go relatively quickly."

What's next in the Senate?

On January 25, the House Impeachment Managers officially notified the Senate of the January 13 impeachment resolution. The rules say the Senate must now initiate the process immediately. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have two weeks to work out their positions, said Democrat Chuck Schumer. The trial is scheduled to begin on February 9th.

In the Senate, Schumer has taken over the majority leadership from Republican Mitch McConnell. This means that all procedural questions can now be determined by the Democrats, who, along with the casting vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, have a slim majority of 51-50 votes in the Senate. You determine whether and which witnesses should be heard and which evidence will be admitted.

There are hardly any fixed rules for all of this. These are adjusted for each impeachment procedure, mostly based on previous procedures.

It is still unclear whether the Senate will concentrate solely on the impeachment process. Or whether he creates the freedom to - if necessary - confirm other ministers in office that Joe Biden has nominated. Another Corona aid package is also on the agenda.

Whether foreign, defense or deputy minister of construction, almost every important government position has to be confirmed by the Senate. And every candidate is first heard by the Senate. That costs time, which the Senate may not have if it first has to go through a complex impeachment procedure.

What sense does it make to want to remove a president who is no longer in office?

There are various reasons for this. For one thing, that would be a symbolic drawing of boundaries. A president has never been removed from office. Trump would be the first. It would be tantamount to a subsequent dishonorable dismissal. The very fact that Trump is the first president to be indicted twice in one term is a significant historical flaw.

One solid reason, however, is that the Senators can forbid Trump to accept public office in the future. The danger of Trump running for the 2024 presidential election would thus be averted.

However, this only works after a two-thirds majority of the senators present have decided to impeach them. To make this possible, with all 100 senators present, 17 Republican senators would have to vote with the Democrats. Trump could then be excluded from all future offices with a simple majority.

How will the Republicans behave?

Whether all of this will lead to a conviction and thus to a subsequent impeachment of Trump can be regarded as very unlikely. In the Senate on January 26, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators voted in favor of a motion calling impeachment against Trump unconstitutional. Senior Republican Senate Mitch McConnell was among those who supported the motion. Although he had publicly called Trump a provocateur of the riot, with this vote he seems to want to show that he does not intend to condemn Trump in the Senate.

17 Republican senators would have to vote with the Democrats to get the necessary two-thirds majority of the MPs present when the house is full. The process is now further away from that than ever.

The Republicans are in a bind. If you condemn Trump, you risk splitting the party. Allegedly Trump is already working on the establishment of a new "Patriot Party", which he denied. But if you acquit him of the allegations, you risk strengthening Trump and making yourself dependent on his whims for the foreseeable future. Apparently they want to avoid answering the question of whether Trump's wrongdoing must be punished with the argument that the procedure is unconstitutional.

If they wanted to get rid of him as a political actor, the only way to do it would be to be impeached. If Trump is condemned by a two-thirds majority, then the senators can forbid him in a next step with a simple majority from ever again to assume public office. A candidacy in 2024 would then be excluded. But it will probably not come to that now. The process is "dead on arrival" - that is, dead before you even deal with it - said Trump's last chief of staff in the White House, Mark Meadows.