Former president Donald trump to Tuesday faces start of second impeachment trial, an uphill battle for Democrats determined to prove him guilty in the wake of the deadly riot on the United States Capitol.
Despite the unprecedented circumstances and uncertain political ramifications, experts view the acquittal as the likely outcome of the trial.
House impeachment officials, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Nonetheless aim to persuade two-thirds of the divided Senate to condemn Trump for inciting the Jan.6 invasion.
But their path is strewn with pitfalls, including Republicans who largely doubt the legality of the trial itself and a Democratic president, Joe biden, who looks forward to Congress embarking on its ambitious legislative agenda.
Trump is the only commander-in-chief in U.S. history to have been impeached twice. In 2019, he was impeached on two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, for his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden. He was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February 2020.
Trump will have been out of office for almost three weeks by the time the ongoing trial begins. Based at his home in Florida, the one-term Republican president still enjoys the support of whole swathes of the party and the loyalty of many of his representatives.
“I’m about 95 percent certain this is going to end in an acquittal,” said Chris Haynes, professor of political science at New Haven University. “I just don’t think there are 17 Republicans who will join Democrats in condemning Trump.”
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming trial:
The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump on January 13, a week before he left office, on an article of “incitement to insurgency”.
The article accuses Trump, who staged a rally outside the White House shortly before the riot began, of making statements that “encouraged – and presumably resulted in – lawless actions on Capitol Hill.”
At that rally, Trump urged a crowd of his supporters to come to Capitol Hill, where a joint session of Congress met to confirm Biden’s electoral victory. Trump repeatedly pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence, who chaired the event, to challenge the Electoral College’s results.
“If you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country,” Trump told the crowd. Many of those listeners marched straight to the Capitol, where a crowd smashed barricades and lines of police and forced lawmakers to evacuate their rooms.
Five people died, including a Capitol police officer.
The rally came after Trump made further attempts to reverse state election results, the impeachment notes article. It also followed Trump for weeks falsely insisting he won the election against Biden, while also broadcasting a series of baseless plots alleging widespread voter fraud.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., announced Monday afternoon that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Along with Trump’s lawyers and impeachment officials, had reached an agreement on the conduct of the trial.
“This impeachment trial in the United States Senate will bring about truth and accountability, which are essential to ensure the unity and healing our country desperately needs following the vile attack on our democracy,” Schumer told the Senate. .
Here’s how their plan will work, according to Schumer’s office:
- On Tuesday, Trump’s legal team and impeachment officials will split up to four hours to argue for the constitutionality of the trial. The Senate will then vote, by the simple majority required to vote, if it has the competence to hold the trial;
- If this vote is passed, each party will have 4 p.m. to present its case, starting Wednesday at noon. Those 16 hours must be used up in two days, and neither side can spend more than eight hours a day making their case.
- After these presentations are completed, Senators will have a total of four hours to question prosecutors and the defense team.
- After that time, each side will share up to four hours to discuss whether the Senate should consider motions to summon witnesses and documents.
- If the Senate votes to issue these subpoenas, both parties will be able to testify as witnesses, and more rules governing the conduct of such depositions would be adopted in a separate resolution.
- After that, the two parties will share up to four hours for oral argument.
- Then the Senate will vote on the article of impeachment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Chose nine Democrats to serve as impeachment officials in the trial.
Raskin, the main impeachment official, is a former constitutional law professor who has served in Congress since 2017. He has noted it aims “to tell the story of this attack on America and all the events that led to it”.
Raskin, 58, agreed to lead the prosecution just weeks after the death of his son, Tommy.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) Is leading other House impeachment officials after he handed the Senate an impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to stand trial on charges of incitement to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Washington, U.S. on January 25, 2021.
Mélina Mara | Reuters
Other impeachment officials are Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Eric Swalwell and Ted Lieu of California, Joe Neguse of Colorado, Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, and Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands.
A pre-trial brief released on Monday also mentioned attorney Michael van der Veen as a member of Trump’s legal team.
Matt Rourke | PA
Castor drew publicity in 2005 when, as a Montgomery County District Attorney, he chose not to lay charges of sexual assault against Bill Cosby.
Castor is also a cousin of Stephen Castor, a Republican House staff attorney involved in Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, according to the New York Times.
Lawyer David Schoen
Joe Cavaretta | South Florida Sun-Sentinel | PA
Schoen had represented Roger Stone, the Republican political agent and longtime Trump ally who was arrested in connection with former special advocate Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence days before he appeared in jail. In his last month in office, Trump pardoned Stone in the middle dozens of other graces.
Pro-Trump protesters storm the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police, at rally to challenge certification of 2020 U.S. presidential election results by U.S. Congress, in Washington, States United, January 6, 2021.
Shannon Stapelton | REUTERS
Trump’s legal team accused Democrats of political expediency and “Trump inconvenience syndrome,” while defending Trump’s remarks at the rally as constitutionally protected speech.
The two sides have already clashed over whether the trial itself is constitutional, since Trump has already left office.
“The Senate is being asked to do something patently ridiculous,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Try a private citizen in a process that is designed to remove him from an office he no longer occupies.”
Those responsible for impeachment had responded preemptively that “there is no ‘January exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution.”
There is no concrete timeline in place yet, but there is reason to believe it will end sooner than Trump’s first impeachment trial, which lasted nearly three weeks.
On the one hand, members of both sides are reluctant to prolong the trial. Senators agree the chances of getting at least 17 Republicans to condemn Trump are slim. No Republican has announced plans to condemn him, and only a few Republicans, including McConnell, say they have yet to make a decision.
Democrats likely want to avoid hampering items on Biden’s agenda, including his Cabinet appointments and the massive coronavirus relief bill he’s pushing.
President Joe R. Biden travels aboard Marine One and departs the South Lawn of the White House on Friday, February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Biden “doesn’t want to get involved in this at all,” Haynes said, “because it could affect his ability to work with Mitch McConnell, who could completely try to block anything that goes through the Senate with filibuster.” .
Impeachment officials may try calling witnesses or experts to testify – an option Republicans stranded during Trump’s first trial last year. This could lengthen the trial. Prosecutors, however, prepare to rely more on the plentiful amount of video footage that was taken on the day of the riot, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Trump’s lawyer Schoen appeared to anticipate that the trial could go on at least until the weekend. Schoen, who is Jewish, has asked that proceedings be temporarily halted between sunset Friday and Sunday afternoon so that he can keep the Sabbath. Schumer granted the request, a spokesperson for his office said.