Donald Trump's second impeachment trial begins in US Senate - VIDEO
- 09 February 2021
The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump began in the US Senate on Tuesday, with the former president facing a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the US Capitol last month and engaged in clashes that left five people dead, APA reports citing The Guardian.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, opened the trial by saying it focused on “the gravest charges ever brought against a president of the United States in American history”.
The prosecution is expected to brandish dramatic footage of the violence at the Capitol on 6 January. The trial is set to strike a sharp contrast of tone with Trump’s first trial in early 2020, at which prosecutors used documents, emails and testimony to tell a complicated story about a Trump pressure campaign in Ukraine.
This time the alleged crime scene is much closer to home – in the very chamber where the trial will play out, which was invaded by Trump supporters moments after members of Congress and staff had been evacuated.
With a majority of Americans expressing horror and outrage at the attack on the Capitol, the allegations against Trump could land much more powerfully with the public than did the story of his seeking political favors from Ukraine in return for official acts.
Seeking to defuse the incendiary potential of the footage that Democrats are preparing to air on the Senate floor, defense lawyers for Trump on Monday made the extraordinary claim that presenting the events of the attack would amount to “a brazen attempt to glorify violence”.
The defense team, led by Bruce Castor, a former county prosecutor from Pennsylvania, also argued in a legal brief that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to try Trump, because he has already left office. Additionally they claimed that Trump’s speeches and tweets whipping up a frenzy about false election fraud did not amount to incitement and were protected under the first amendment.
The prosecutors sent by the House of Representatives, known as impeachment managers, filed a blistering response to that argument on Tuesday.
“Accepting President Trump’s argument would mean that Congress could not impeach a President who burned an American flag on national television, or who spoke at a Ku Klux Klan rally in a white hood, or who wore a swastika while leading a march through a Jewish neighborhood – all of which is expression protected by the First Amendment but would obviously be grounds for impeachment,” they wrote in a rebuttal brief.
The managers are led led by Jamie Raskin of Maryland and represent an entirely new team from Trump’s previous impeachment. In their Tuesday brief, they also pointed to a Monday op-ed by an influential conservative lawyer arguing that Trump could be tried after leaving office. Trump argued the Senate could not try him, the managers argued, because “he has no good defense” and his “guilt is obvious”.
The core of the prosecution’s argument, laid out in an 80-page brief submitted last week, documents statements Trump made and tweeted, from “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” to “Election Rigged & Stolen” to “they’re not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell, I’ll tell you right now” to “So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue!”
Dozens of the nearly 140 people who have been charged so far in relation with the Capitol attack have argued as part of their criminal defenses that they stormed the building because the president told them to.
The trial is expected to last at least through the week, but leaders from both parties are seen as not wanting it to run as long as the prior impeachment trial, which stretched to 15 days over January and February.
An early push by Democrats to call witnesses at the current trial, possibly including police officers who were injured in the attack, lost momentum out of concerns that a longer timeline could interrupt efforts by the Joe Biden administration to pass a $1.9tn Covid-19 aid and economic relief package into law and pursue other policy initiatives.
Each side will have up to 16 hours starting at noon Wednesday to make their cases.
Unlike at his first impeachment trial in early 2020, Trump is at risk this time of suffering multiple defections by Republican senators outraged by the threat to their personal safety and dreaming, perhaps, of a longshot opportunity to jettison Trump from core conservative politics.
But 17 Republicans would need to join Democrats to convict Trump and then bar him from holding office in the future – a tally that appears all but unattainable.
Trump is the only president in US history to be impeached twice. There have been impeachment proceedings against three other presidents: Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Andrew Johnson. None was convicted at trial.
In 2019, Trump was impeached in the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but he was acquitted in the Senate with only one Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah, voting to convict.