The second impeachment against Donald Trump, which could end up prohibiting the former President from seeking any public office in the future, has begun in the Senate. The process has generated great controversy as its legitimacyis still under discussion due to the fact that Trump has already left the White House.
The former President was indicted on January 13th, just one week after a pro-Trump mob violently invaded the Capitol while Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence were certifying the election results that gave Joe Biden the victory.
Trump is accused of urging thousands of Americans to storm the Capitol following repeated allegations of voter fraud; however Republicans and Trump’s legal defense team claim he cannot be blamed for the actions of third parties.
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s impeachment trial.
How will the unprecedented impeachment be executed?
The trial will begin this Tuesday, February 9th at 1 P.M. with Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, Speaker pro tempore of the House, presiding over the trial in place of Chief Justice John Roberts.
Although Roberts is constitutionally required to oversee impeachment trials of presidents, he chose not to do so this time because Trump is no longer President.
In the first session there will be four hours of debate in total, divided between the House impeachment managers and Trump’s attorney on whether impeachment is constitutional. The Senate will then vote by simple majority on whether or not the impeachment proceeds.
If a majority of the Senate says the impeachment is unconstitutional, which is not expected to be the case as it is majority Democrat, then the impeachment would be dismissed immediately.
Then the parties will have until 9 am on Wednesday to file any motions, and at 11 am the same day responses to those motions would be filed. Arguments on the merits of the impeachment trial will then begin, at which time the House will present its case first; this could last from 4 pm to over the course of two days.
Then, Trump’s lawyers will present their case, also until 4 p.m. for two days.
According to Fox News, the trial will stop at 5 P.M. Friday until 2 P.M. Sunday in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, at the request of Trump’s lawyer, David Schoen.
After opening arguments, senators will have four hours total to question lawyers for each side, then there will be two hours of arguments per party on whether the Senate should bring any witnesses, which will be followed by a simple majority vote.
If senators do not hear witnesses, the trial will likely conclude next week. If senators vote to hear witnesses, then it will open up the possibility that the trial will run much longer than anticipated.
The Senate will also vote on whether to consider evidence.
After the evidence and witness process, whether the Senate votes to hear evidence and witnesses, there will be two hours for Trump’s legal team and House impeachment trial managers to present closing arguments. Then there will be a vote on whether to convict the former president, which would require a two-thirds “supermajority.”
What is Trump charged with?
Incitement to insurrection is the fundamental charge behind the article of impeachment. But that claim is backed up by the impeachment managers with a litany of other charges about what actions by Trump incited insurrection and why.
They include that Trump lied about the results of the presidential election; that he tried to subvert the accurate and fair outcome of the election; and that he sent the crowd of his supporters to Capitol Hill.
The indictment text cites, “Trump deliberately made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – illegal actions on Capitol Hill, such as, ‘If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,'” it adds.
Trump’s lawyers are expected to argue that the Senate can no longer constitutionally convict the former president since he is no longer in office.
Who are the impeachment managers?
The impeachment managers are considered the impeachment party. They are nine members of Congress, appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will prosecute the case.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, leads the team of House impeachment trial managers that also includes Diana DeGette, D-Colorado; David Cicilline, D-D.I.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Eric Swalwell, D-California; Ted Lieu, D-California; Joe Neguse, D-Colorado; Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.; and non-voting Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands.
Raskin is a member of the House Oversight Committee, the House Rules Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
Who is on Trump’s defense team?
The two lead attorneys on Trump’s defense team are Bruce Castor, former district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; and David Schoen, a civil rights attorney who is also chairman of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
Schoen has ties to former Trump associate Roger Stone, whom he represented when he was sentenced to 40 months in prison for witness tampering and other charges in early 2020. And he was one of the last people to meet with Jeffrey Epstein before his death.
Is this impeachment constitutional?
It depends on who you ask. Republicans tend to say that impeachment is unconstitutional, citing the fact that Trump is now out of office and that impeachment trials for presidents require the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to preside over the impeachment.
Democrats, for their part, say the trial is constitutional, citing the 1876 trial of former Secretary of War William Belknap, which occurred after he left office. They also say it is constitutional because there is a possibility of barring Trump from holding any public office in the future.
Either way, most scholars, regardless of their opinion, say that whether the trial is constitutional remains an open question, since there has never been a trial of a former president before and no court has ruled on the issue.
The controversy is such that even Democratic Senator Chris Murphy admitted that it is not ridiculous to think about the unconstitutionality of impeachment.
Faced with this procedure, Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz argued that “Congress does not have the power to impeach any official after he or she has left office.”
What are the chances that Trump will be convicted?
All indications are that Trump stands a good chance of being acquitted in this impeachment trial. Although Democrats now closely control the Senate, they would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump.
A handful of Republicans have indicated they are open to conviction, but most have questioned the legality and said the process would be too divisive.
Sen. Rand Paul last month raised a point of order in the Senate arguing that an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional. That forced a vote on the issue, and 45 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans voted that the trial is unconstitutional.
That means the trial was upheld as constitutional by a 55-45 vote. But it also means that 12 Republicans would have to change their minds.
What happens if Trump is convicted?
While the main point of impeachment is to remove a person from office if convicted, a person can also be barred from holding office in the future. If Democrats get the 67 votes they need to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection, then they plan to hold a subsequent vote to ban Trump from office in the future. That would only need a simple majority to pass.
If that happens, Trump could theoretically challenge the constitutionality of the Senate’s judgment in court in the future, with the goal of regaining his right to run for office.