‘I want immediate impeachment trial’

US President Donald Trump has demanded an immediate impeachment trial in the Senate, amid an impasse among Democrats and Republicans over when it may start.

On Wednesday, the House impeached Mr Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But Democrats have yet to embark on the next stage, arguing the Republican-controlled Senate is refusing witnesses and will not hold a fair trial.

The Senate’s numbers mean Mr Trump is almost certain to be acquitted.

The impeachment process – only the fourth time it has happened in US history – has been a bitter partisan fight dividing Washington. The House impeachment vote earlier this week split almost totally along party lines.

The two charges passed on Wednesday follow accusations that Mr Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up damaging information on Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and then refused to co-operate with a congressional inquiry into the matter.

In a series of tweets, the president accused the Democrats of not wanting to go to trial because their “case is so bad”.

He tweeted: “So after the Democrats gave me no Due Process in the House, no lawyers, no witnesses, no nothing, they now want to tell the Senate how to run their trial. Actually, they have zero proof of anything, they will never even show up. They want out. I want an immediate trial!”

The president said the Democrats did not want Congressman Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment process, the Bidens and a CIA whistleblower who sparked the inquiry to testify.

The Democrats have argued that it is Mr Trump’s Republicans who are balking at the appearance of witnesses. The House did also invite the president to testify before its investigators but he declined to do so.

To start the next stage, the Democrat-controlled House must send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to do so until the rules of the Senate trial are acceptable to the Democrats.

The Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, will determine the terms of the trial and the Democrats want him to provide details on which witnesses and what testimony will be allowed.

He has so far refused to do so. “We remain at an impasse,” he said, after a brief meeting with the Democrats’ Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer. -BBC

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