Trump’s impeachment trial opens amid fresh Ukraine charges

New allegations and a watchdog report implicated President Donald Trump in the Ukraine dealings as his impeachment trial opened in the Senate on Thursday, the third such exercise in US history.

The timing of the latest charges against Trump is seen as a tactic by Democrats to pressure the Republican senators into allowing additional witnesses and documents during the trial.

Republicans object to the idea of witnesses and new documents as they want to wind up the trial by Feb 4 when Trump will be giving his state of the Union address. Only Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine seems to be undecided on calling witnesses if a motion is moved by Democratic senators after the early phase of the trial.

In a setback to Republicans, the Government Accountability Office, the top auditing institution of the federal government, released a report on Thursday stating that the White House budget office illegally withheld military aid to Ukraine. 

Separately, a close associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, gave information to House Democrats on Giuliani’s alleged campaign to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival, and his son Hunter Biden who used to be a board member in a scam-tainted Ukrainian gas company.

House Speaker and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told media ahead of the trial that the latest disclosures reconfirm Trump’s pressure campaign in Ukraine to ensure his re-election in November.

The trial opened on a sombre note with the seven impeachment managers from the Democratic Party walking into the Senate and giving the two impeachment articles to senior senator

Chuck Grassley who presided over the opening session. Adam Schiff, above, who led the seven-member team read out the articles and asked for a trial.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Robert, who took the oath along with all senators, adjourned the trial till Tuesday.

The Senate will meet on all days except Sundays till the completion of the trial.

In a vote held on partisan lines, the House of Representatives passed resolutions last month to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over the Ukraine affair.