US House Democrats are pushing for a quick impeachment trial for Donald Trump over the riots at the Capitol, saying full reckoning is necessary before the country and Congress can move on.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could send the article charging the former president with “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate as soon as Friday, setting up a trial at the weekend or next week.
Democrats say politicians can move quickly because they were all witnesses to the siege, with many of them fleeing for safety as the rioters descended on the Capitol.
“It will be soon, I don’t think it will be long, but we must do it,” Ms Pelosi said on Thursday.
She said Mr Trump did not deserve a "get-out-of-jail card" in his historic second impeachment, just because he has left office and President Joe Biden and others are calling for national unity.
Ms Pelosi said she would talk to her impeachment managers, the nine House prosecutors she selected to argue the case before the Senate jury, “in the next few days” about when the upper house might be ready for a trial.
Mr Trump told thousands of supporters to "fight like hell" against the election results that Congress was certifying on January 6, just before a mob invaded the Capitol and interrupted the count.
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached the departing president a week later, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support.
Ms Pelosi said it would be “harmful to unity” to forget that “people died here on January 6, the attempt to undermine our election, to undermine our democracy, to dishonour our constitution".
She can start the trial by sending the article to the Senate but the timing could also depend on discussions between Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who are negotiating how to run the newly split Senate.
Democrats hope to conduct the proceedings while also passing legislation that is a priority for Mr Biden, including coronavirus relief, but they would need some co-operation from Senate Republicans to do that.
Mr Schumer said on Thursday that he was still negotiating with Mr McConnell on how to conduct the trial.
“But make no mistake about it," he said. "There will be a trial, there will be a vote, up or down on whether to convict the president.”
Another unknown is whether Mr Trump will hire lawyers to represent him.
After leaving office on Wednesday, he no longer has a White House counsel’s office at his disposal as he did during his first impeachment.
Members of his past legal team indicated that they did not plan to join in this time.
“I think he’s going to get a legal team here pretty soon,” said Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina and one of Mr Trump’s loyal allies who has been helping him to find representation.
Jason Miller, a Trump campaign aide who flew with the former president to Florida on Wednesday morning before Mr Biden was sworn in, said there would be a “traditional defence operation”, but did not elaborate.
Mr Trump was acquitted by the Senate in February after his legal team fought House charges that he had encouraged the president of Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden in exchange for military aid.
Ms Pelosi said that this time the House was not seeking to convict the president over private conversations, but for a very public insurrection that they experienced and that played out on live TV.
“This year the whole world bore witness to the president’s incitement,” she said.
Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois, the number two Senate Democrat, said it was still too early to know how long a trial would take, or if Democrats would want to call witnesses.
“You don’t need to tell us what was going on with the mob scene," Mr Durbin said. "We were rushing down the staircase to escape.”
Mr McConnell, who said this week that Mr Trump provoked his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote.
He told his Republican colleagues that it would be a vote of conscience.
Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Mr Trump, which is a high bar.
While a handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to conviction, most say they believe a trial will be divisive and questioned the legality of trying a president after he left office.
Mr Graham said that if he were Mr Trump’s lawyer, he would focus on that argument and also the merits of the case, whether it was incitement under the law.
He agreed with Ms Pelosi that a trial should be quick.
“I guess the public record is your television screen,” Mr Graham said. “So I don’t see why this would take a long time.”