Biden’s remarks came even as the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives formally delivered to the Senate (which is also now Democrat-controlled despite being tied at 50-50) an article of impeachment charging Donald Trump with inciting the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.
“The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn’t changed that much,” Biden said in remarks to CNN at the very moment Democratic impeachment team from the House were delivering the article, implicitly conceding the outcome may not result in conviction. He however said the trial was necessary to bring about accountability and it would be worse if it did not happen.
The prelude confirmed the growing belief that the impeachment trial would largely be a political spectacle. Convicting the former President requires a 2/3rd majority of those present and voting in the 100-member Senate, and Republican lawmakers, despite the signal from the party establishment and leadership that they were free to vote according to their conscience, have begun to shy away from committing to do so for fear of being defeated in party primaries by surrogates of the former President, who still wields considerable support in his base.
As per the schedule agreed upon by Senate Democrat and Republican leadership, Senators will be sworn in as jurors Tuesday, when Trump will receive the official summons. But the official trial proceedings will begin only in the week of February 8. The trial will be presided over by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who is the president pro tempore and the most senior Democrat in the chamber, and not by the US Chief Justice John Roberts (who presided over the first impeachment) or by vice-president Kamala Harris, who is the constitutionally-designated President of the Senate.
Very few Republican Senators have committed to vote for Trump’s conviction though the party establishment would like to put the former President out of politics and rescue the GOP from the so-called insurgents who’ve hijacked it. Among those who oppose the impeachment is former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who told Fox News, “They beat him up before he was in office, they beat him while he was in office, now they’re beating him up after he’s left office. Give the man a break.”
Trump meanwhile formally established an “Office of the Former President,” to show that he is not going fading away into the Florida sun. Located in Palm Beach, the office will be run by his former White House aides and “will be responsible for managing President Trump’s correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities,” a statement from his office said, adding, “President Trump will always and forever be a champion for the American people.”
The former President has all but disappeared from public view, virtually unheard of without his social media megaphone and without the cameras that trail the most powerful office in the world. Images from Florida showed him playing golf over the weekend wearing a red MAGA cap. The former President’s surrogates have denied reports that he plans to launch an outfit called the “Patriot Party” but Trump himself said last week that “We’ll do something, but not just yet.”