Donald Trump impeachment: What happens next

US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump. Photo credit: Reuters

The US House of Representatives voted on Thursday to impeach Donald Trump on two counts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

It's only the third time in US history that a president has been formally impeached.

Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were also impeached, while Richard Nixon faced proceedings but resigned before being formally impeached. No US President has so far been removed from office through impeachment.

But the process is far from over - in fact, the most likely scenario is that Trump will end up being acquitted and allowed to remain in office.

So what happens next?

Now that the House has officially voted to impeach Trump, the case will move to the Senate, where he will face a trial to decide if he should be removed from office.

In the trial, senators would be presented the articles of impeachment and would act as a jury to decide if he is guilty of the accusations.

Democrats will appoint so-called impeachment managers who will act like prosecutors in the trial. These managers will most likely comprise of members of Congress.

In many respects the trial will then proceed just like any other, with opening statements from the House prosecution team and White House defence lawyers.

Senators will then get a chance to ask any questions they have for either the prosecution or the defence.

At the next point, there will either be an examination of the evidence, or, if any senator proposes a motion to dismiss the charges, there will be a vote on this proposal.

If a majority of the Senate votes here to dismiss the charges that will be the end of the line for the impeachment process. 

If this doesn't happen, the examination of evidence will be followed by closing arguments and a final deliberation by senators.

The Senate will then vote on each article of impeachment, with a two-thirds majority required to convict.

If Trump is found guilty of any of the two articles he will be removed from office.

If less than two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict him he will be acquitted.

Impeachment unlikely

According to comments by various senators, however, it looks like the result of that trial has all but been decided - before it has even begun.

A vote to convict and remove Trump from office will require 67 votes. As Republicans control the Senate 53-47, it looks highly unlikely that threshold will be met.

In Thursday's vote in the House of Representatives no Republicans voted in favour of either of the two articles impeaching Trump.

In fact, Senator Mitch McConnell recently told Fox News that he plans to directly coordinate with Trump's White House defence team to stop proceedings as quickly as possible. 

"Everything I do during this, I'm coordinating with White House counsel," he said. 

"There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can."

He even went as far as to say that no witnesses would be called in the trial.

Senator Lindsey Graham echoed McConnell's view.

"This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly," he said. 

"I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to name the impeachment managers in the coming days.