The formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump were marched to the Senate late Wednesday, setting the stage for only the third trial to remove a president in American history.
Mr Trump complained anew it was all a “hoax”, even as fresh details emerged about his efforts in Ukraine. Democrats said yet more new evidence had come to light about Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to harm a political rival and his subsequent attempts to cover up of his collusion.
The ceremonial pomp and protocol by those who will be prosecuting the case against Mr Trump moved the impeachment out of House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate, where the president’s team is mounting a defence aiming for swift acquittal.
“Today we will make history,” Ms Pelosi said as she signed the documents, using multiple pens to hand out and mark the moment.
“This president will be held accountable.”
Earlier Wednesday, the House voted 228-193, almost entirely along party lines to deliver the charges.
The split reflected the deeply divided nation at the start of this presidential election year.
It came one month after the House impeached Mr Trump, alleging he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage.
Mr Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.
Mr Trump’s political campaign dismissed the House effort as “just a failed attempt to politically damage President Trump leading up to his re-election”.
The Senate will transform itself into an impeachment court on Thursday. The Constitution calls for chief justice John Roberts to preside at the trial, administering the oath to senators who will serve as jurors and swear to deliver “impartial justice”.
Technically, the House was simply notifying the Senate of its delivery of the articles, with a more formal presentation Thursday. Opening arguments are to begin next Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.
The top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy of California, said Americans will look back on this “sad saga” that tried to remove the president from office with the “weakest case”.
The president’s team expects acquittal with a Senate trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior administration officials.
That is far shorter than the last presidential impeachment trial, of Bill Clinton, in 1999, or the first one, of Andrew Johnson, in 1868.
The seven-member prosecution team will be led by the chairmen of the House impeachment proceedings, Adam Schiff of the intelligence committee and Jerry Nadler of the judiciary committee, two of Ms Pelosi’s top lieutenants.
Ahead of Wednesday’s session, Mr Schiff released new records from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, about the Ukraine strategy, including an exchange with another man about surveilling later-fired ambassador Maria Yovanovitch.
Mr Trump’s trial will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history, and it comes against the backdrop of a politically divided nation in an election year.
Senate Republicans signalled they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Mr Trump, as he himself has suggested.