Historic Trump impeachment trial begins in Senate

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The historic impeachment trial of Donald Trump opened Thursday in the US Senate, as lawmakers took a solemn oath to be “impartial” in deciding whether to force the 45th US president from office.

For just the third time in American history, the hushed Senate chamber was transformed into a court of impeachment, presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who administered the oath to senators.

When Roberts, clad in a black robe, asked if they swore to deliver “impartial justice” according to the US Constitution, the 99 lawmakers present one was absent responded in unison, with right hands raised: “I do.”

Earlier in the day, in a deeply symbolic moment, the two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress were read out on the Senate floor.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye,” Senate Sergeant of Arms Michael Stenger said, commanding senators to “keep silent, on pain of imprisonment.”

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who will serve as lead prosecutor for the trial, read the charges accusing Trump of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Trump has ridiculed the impeachment process for months, and he responded to the opening of the trial by once more branding it a “hoax.”

“I think it should go very quickly,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

“It’s totally partisan,” he said. “I’ve got to go through a hoax, a phony hoax put out by the Democrats so they can try and win an election.”

The Democratic-controlled House, voting along party lines, impeached Trump on December 18.

But Trump’s acquittal is widely expected in the Republican-dominated Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove a president.

After the swearing in, the Senate adjourned until 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) Tuesday.

One senator — Republican James Inhofe was absent due to a family medical emergency but said he would be sworn in “with no delay” on Tuesday.