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Impeaching Trump: When does Senate vote on impeachment? What we know today

The House voted to impeach Trump, so when does the Senate vote? Here's what's happening and what could happen with the impeachment trial of the former president.

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The House impeached Trump again -- here's what that means.

Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET

With the inauguration of President Joe Biden now over, a central question in the aftermath of the Jan. 13 impeachment of former President Donald Trump remains unanswered: When will the Senate trial begin? After a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives to impeach Trump on a charge of "incitement of insurrection" for his role in encouraging the deadly riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, the Senate will be compelled to hold a vote to convict or acquit Trump. 

The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results confirming Biden as the nation's next president, a process widely seen as a formality. After the Capitol was cleared of rioters, the joint session of Congress confirmed Biden's presidency.

"We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection -- this armed rebellion -- against our common country," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Jan. 13 prior to the vote. "He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love."

The timing of the matter is complicated. While Trump's term ended Wednesday, a conviction could potentially lead to other consequences. This is the first time in US history a president has been impeached twice.

"I don't think anybody would seriously argue that we should establish a precedent where every president on the way out the door has two weeks or three weeks or four weeks to try to incite an armed insurrection against the union or organize a coup against the union," Rep. Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager, said Sunday on CNN State of the Union. "And if it succeeds, he becomes a dictator. And if it fails, he'd not subject to impeachment or conviction because we want to just let bygones be bygones."

"This was the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America. The most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States," Raskin added.

The House's adoption of the impeachment article, in a 232-197 vote, came a day after members voted to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the powers of the presidency from Trump -- a move Pence refused to do, saying it "would set a terrible precedent."

We'll explain what could happen now that Trump has been impeached, including the timeline for a Senate trial. This story has been updated with new information.

Read more14th Amendment enters Trump impeachment conversation

When does the Senate start Trump's impeachment trial?

Now that the House has passed the resolution, the next step is for the chamber to send the indictment over to the Senate to take up.

"You'll be the first to know when we announce that we are going over there," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday when asked when the Senate will receive the impeachment.

The Senate returned to work Jan. 19, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warning previously there was "no chance" the chamber would complete its trial prior to Biden's inauguration.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CNN last week he expects the impeachment trial to happen "within a matter of days after the inauguration." He also said he's hopeful there will be enough votes from Republican senators because if they acquit Trump twice, "they will be judged harshly not only by history but I think by American voters."

If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote "on barring him from running again," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Biden tweeted on Jan. 13 that he hopes the Senate will "deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation." Biden and McConnell have reportedly discussed a "bifurcated" Senate session after inauguration, which would split the chamber's time between confirmation hearings for Biden's cabinet selections and Trump's impeachment trial, numerous outlets reported.

Senate Republicans in favor of the Trump indictment?

While the impeachment resolution had unanimous support among voting House Democrats, 10 House Republicans also voted for the article. As the Senate waits to receive the article of impeachment, speculation begins on which Republican senators may vote to convict.

McConnell is reportedly leaning toward voting against Trump, believing the former president committed impeachable offenses, The New York Times reported. In a note to colleagues, however, McConnell said, "I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," the Washington Post reported.

Sens. Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski also expressed support for Trump to step down prior to his term ending.

On the House side, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and some House Republicans had discussed a different avenue, one that favors the significantly milder censure over impeachment.

What happens if Trump is convicted?

Now that the House has voted to impeach, the process moves to the Senate for a trial supervised by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Normally, the conviction of a president at such a trial would result in the president being immediately removed from office. With Trump's term now over anyway (more on this below), the Senate can additionally vote to remove the right to run for a second presidential term or for "any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States," according to the Constitution (Article 1, Section 3).

McConnell in a statement said that "the Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively."

A president impeached in the Senate may also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents in the Post Presidents Act, including a pension and yearly travel allowance.

Despite reports, Trump did not use his presidential power to attempt to pardon himself, and did not resign. According to the US constitution, impeached presidents cannot be pardoned.

What has to happen to convict a president through impeachment

A president, along with other officers, can be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," according to Article 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution. To impeach, a simple majority of members of the House of Representatives need to vote to indict. A trial is then heard in the Senate, where the US chief justice presides. A full two-thirds of the 100 senators must vote in favor of a conviction, or else the president is acquitted.

Impeaching a president is typically a lengthy process involving months of inquiries and investigations.

Here's the short version of the general procedure:

  • The House of Representatives votes on levying impeachment charges against Trump.
  • Now that the article of impeachment passed in the House, the Senate must hold a trial.
  • The House prosecutes, and the Senate sits as jury. The Supreme Court's chief justice presides. 
  • Trump has an opportunity to present a defense.

Wasn't Trump already impeached during his presidential term?

Yes. Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House. However, the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020, with the process marked by a record number of tweets from Trump disparaging the impeachment effort.

His previous impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. On that occasion, the issue was Trump's dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden's son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.

CNET's Jessica Dolcourt and Rae Hodge contributed to this report.