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The first day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for his responsibility in the assault on the Capitol last January began with a sharp contrast between the prosecution and defense strategies. After four hours of debate and the presentation of testimony, the Democratic majority in the Senate voted to declare it a legitimate and constitutional process.
Here is a summary of four key moments from Tuesday’s session:
The debate and the vote on the constitutionality of the trial
The former President’s lawyers raised their argument: the unconstitutionality of trying him politically when he is no longer in office, while the Democratic prosecutors defended the process.
By a 56-44 vote, the Senate voted to proceed with the historic impeachment trial. Six Republicans joined the Democrats in voting: Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
A video that left the Senate silent
Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, showed a graphic video of the January 6th attack. The Democrat’s video mashup of Trump’s words encouraging his supporters to “fight like hell” was followed by graphic images of protesters then tearing down barricades on Capitol Hill.
The 13-minute audiovisual included clips of senator Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, speaking on the Senate floor and rejecting Trump’s statements about widespread voter fraud on January 6th in contrast to chants of “Stop the Steal” from Capitol Hill seige protesters.
Trump’s defense offered a wide-ranging response
Bruce Castor, Trump’s lawyer, praised prosecutors for a presentation that was “well done,” and attorney David Schoen continued to bash Democrats for trying to tear the country apart.
Schoen was supposed to present first, not Castor, according to two people familiar with the plan. But Castor told the Senate that Trump’s legal team “changed what we were going to do because we thought the House prosecutors’ presentation was well done.”
Schoen denounced the impeachment trial as an exercise in “raw, misguided partisanship.”
“This trial will tear our country apart, perhaps as we have only seen once before in American history,” Schoen warned, in apparent reference to the country’s Civil War (1861-1865).
The impeachment calendar
The Senate approved a timetable for the impeachment. The trial is scheduled to continue through the weekend with no days off, according to a resolution drafted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Party Leader Mitch McConnell .
The eight-page bipartisan resolution laid out the rules and timeline for Trump’s second impeachment trial in an effort to complete the unprecedented proceedings in a fair and expeditious manner.
House prosecutors will have 16 hours over two days to make their presentation beginning Wednesday, followed by two days for Trump’s lawyers.
Then, senators will have four hours to ask questions sent in writing to both sides, and the Senate could debate and vote on whether to subpoena witnesses, though it is unclear whether any will be sought to be subpoenaed at trial.