What happens if the Senate convicts Trump while he's in Switzerland?
TORONTO -- When the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump resumes on Tuesday, the man at the centre of it won't be in the room. In fact, he won't even be on the same continent as his prosecutors.
As the U.S. Senate determines whether Trump is guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the president will be in Davos, Switzerland, mingling with political and business elites at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Although it is seen as unlikely that the Senate will convict Trump – to say nothing of the possibility they wrap up their trial, one way or another, before the Davos forum ends on Friday – the timing has caused some observers to question whether the president might be using the event as a smokescreen to protect himself from a potential guilty verdict.
Dozens of theories of this type have been floated on Twitter in recent days. Most of these suspicions cite as evidence that the U.S. has no extradition agreement with Switzerland. Unfortunately for the purveyors of these ideas, that isn't true.
An extradition agreement between the two countries has been in force since 1997. It spells out the terms under which a person who is in one country and is wanted in the other can be sent away to face justice.
The agreement notes that either country can "deny extradition if the acts for which extradition is requested constitute a political offense or if the request appears to be politically motivated." This may provide some level of hope to the conspiracy theorists, but it's in no way unique to the U.S.-Switzerland agreement, as similar wording appears in the Canada-U.S. and Canada-Switzerland extradition deals, among many others.
However, those who believe Trump's visit to a gathering often attended by world leaders really is the first step in a plan to thwart impeachment by living the rest of his life in Switzerland can still hang their hats on one fact: the mountainous country is known to be more aggressive than most nations in refusing extradition requests.
Roman Polanski is a high-profile example of this. The filmmaker was arrested in Zurich in 2009 at the behest of the U.S. government, only for Swiss authorities to later reject his extradition and release him.
More recently, Chinese scientist Gongda Xue was extradited from Switzerland to the U.S. earlier this month to face charges related to allegations that he was part of a conspiracy to steal trade secrets from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
A previous version of this story suggested that the Senate could impeach U.S. President Donald Trump. In fact, Trump has already been impeached by the House of Representatives and the Senate trial is focused on a potential conviction.