Former President Trump’s second impeachment trial, explained

Former President Trump’s second impeachment trial, explained
Source: Melina Mara, Reuters
Two days after the article of impeachment was introduced, 10 House Republicans joined all 222 Democrats in voting to impeach the president, making Trump the first US president to be impeached twice.

As the newly minted majority leader of the United States Senate, one of Chuck Schumer’s first acts was scheduling the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for the week of February 8. The trial could potentially still be postponed if the Senate decides it wants more time to focus on the agenda of President Joe Biden, but as of now, February 9 looks to be the start date.

No matter when the trial begins, it is expected to conclude in much the same way Trump’s first impeachment trial ended: with an acquittal. Even though Democrats now control the Senate, a conviction would still require 17 Republican Senators to vote against the former president, something few people expect to happen.

With Democrats in control of the Senate, though, they do have more power to set the schedule for the trial. During Trump’s first impeachment trial, for obstruction of justice and abuse of power, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, set the rules and barred witnesses. With Schumer, a Democrat, taking the lead this time, the trial may look substantially different.

Here is what is known about the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Why is Trump being impeached again?

On January 11, the Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced an article of impeachment against then-President Trump. They accused him of inciting the insurrection attempt at the US Capitol on January 6, which resulted in five deaths.

In the two months after the November presidential election, Trump frequently repeated the false claim that the election was stolen from him. The attempted coup was planned and executed by supporters of Trump who believed Biden had not won the election.

On the day of the attack, Trump appeared at a rally in which he told the attendees, “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol … to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women.”

On that day, Congress was voting to officially certify the electoral college vote and confirm Biden’s win. Trump and many fellow Republicans had insisted the vote should not be certified.

Later in the day, after the crowds had descended on the Capitol building, Trump posted a video to his now-suspended Twitter account in which he once again repeated the lie that the election had been stolen. He told the crowds to go home, but added, “We love you.”

Trump’s second impeachment trial

Two days after the article of impeachment was introduced, 10 House Republicans joined all 222 Democrats in voting to impeach the president, making Trump the first US president to be impeached twice. But impeachment is not conviction and for Trump to be found guilty, two-thirds of the Senate will have to vote against him following a trial.

The exact format of the trial is unknown at the moment. The trial could include witnesses, or, like Trump’s previous impeachment trial, it may not. That will be decided by Senate Majority Leader Schumer, as will the length of time each side has to present their case. Schumer has said he hopes the trial will be quick.

Though Chief Justice John Roberts served as the judge in the first impeachment trial, that will not be the case this time. Instead, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and the president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside.

If Trump is found guilty, he can no longer be removed from office. Per the Constitution, though, he can be disqualified “to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” Trump may also face legal liability outside of Congress if it is determined he played a role in inciting the violence at the Capitol.

With the Senate evenly split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, 17 members of Trump’s party would have to vote against him for him to be convicted. Since 45 Republican Senators backed a failed effort to block the impeachment trial on January 26, few people expect Trump to be convicted. Senator Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote against Trump in the last impeachment trial.

The prosecution and defense

With less than a week until the impeachment trial is set to begin, politicians in both parties are making their cases for how they think the trial should be handled. As with the previous impeachment trial, Republicans have voiced opposition to witnesses being brought in to testify at the trial.

On February 1, Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News and warned the Democrats against using the trial as a “political commercial against Trump and the Republicans.” Graham stated it would be a “long trial” if witnesses were called, explaining that Republicans would then call for the FBI to testify. “You open up Pandora’s box if you call one witness. I hope we don’t call any.”

For their part, the House impeachment managers (or the prosecution in the trial), have signaled that they are uncertain about whether they would call witnesses. It is thought that the social media posts and video evidence, including hours of footage from the day of the attack, may be sufficient to argue their case that Trump not only fomented the insurrection, but egged it on while it was taking place.

Named by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the House impeachment managers include nine Democratic Representatives: Jamie Raskin (Lead Manager), Joaquin Castro, David Cicilline, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Ted Lieu, Joe Neguse, Stacey Plaskett and Eric Swalwell. None of the nine were on the team that prosecuted Trump’s first impeachment trial.

The defense team for Trump will be led by David Schoen, a criminal defense lawyer, and Bruce Castor Jr., a former district attorney. The two lawyers joined Trump’s team at the last minute, following the sudden departure of five lawyers who were originally supposed to defend the former president.

There are two alleged reasons for the departure of Trump’s original defense team. The first was that he had insisted they argue there was election fraud, a contention that has been struck down dozens of times in court already. The second is that Trump and the team couldn’t agree on the fees for the trial.

It is uncertain if Trump’s current team intends on centering arguments around Trump’s election fraud claims. However, his lawyers have revealed that at least part of his defense will rest on arguing that his words leading up to the attack are being intentionally misinterpreted by Democrats.

Trump’s lawyers for the impeachment trial have stated they opposed showing footage from the riot during the trial. They claim it has “nothing to do” with Trump and the footage would only stir up further national division.

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