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Trump impeachment: When will the Senate trial begin? What we know

The House voted to impeach President Trump on Wednesday. Now what? Here's what's happening in the final days of Trump's presidency and what could happen with the impeachment trial.

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

Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET

In a bipartisan indictment that saw 10 Republicans vote in favor of impeachment, the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump Wednesday on a charge of "incitement of insurrection" for his role in the deadly riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6. This is the first time in US history a president has been impeached twice.

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

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.

Read moreCould Trump pardon himself before leaving office? What to know

The House's adoption of the impeachment article, in a 232-197 vote, came a day after Representatives voted to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the powers of the presidency from Trump. Right before the vote Pence sent Pelosi a letter saying he would not invoke the 25th Amendment, writing it "would set a terrible precedent."

Shortly after the House's impeachment vote, Trump posted a video from the White House that encouraged an end to all violence amid reports there could be armed protests planned in Washington, DC, in the lead up to Biden's inauguration. Trump did not address his impeachment, his role in the riots or concede that Biden won the presidential election.

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 will Trump's impeachment trial begin in the Senate?

Now that the House has voted to impeach, the next step is for the appointed House managers to present the article of impeachment to the Senate, which will activate a trial. Pelosi signed the article of impeachment Wednesday evening following the House vote, but did not say when the managers will submit the article to the Senate.

The Senate is scheduled to return to work Jan. 19, and there is "no chance" the chamber will complete its trial prior to Biden's inauguration, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement following the impeachment.

"Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office," McConnell said. "In light of this reality, I believe it will best service our nation if Congress ... focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power."

There can either be a trial now, or a trial after Jan. 19, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial." Schumer added that if the president is convicted, there will be an additional vote "on barring him from running again."

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CNN Thursday 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."

The House could decide to delay sending the indictment to the Senate until after the Biden administration makes headway on Senate approval on Biden's cabinet nominees and vaccine distribution. Biden has pledged to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people's arms in his first 100 days in office.

Biden tweeted late Wednesday 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 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 have also expressed support for Trump to step down.

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 sitting president at such a trial would result in the president being immediately removed from office. With just days left in his term, Trump would likely finish out his presidency before the trial finished (more on this below) but 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.

Trump has reportedly considered using his presidential power to attempt to pardon himself, but is not expected to resign. According to the US constitution, impeached presidents cannot be pardoned.

What has to happen to remove a sitting 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.