This Tuesday, February 9th, the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump will begin. On the one hand, Republican senators assure us that the former president will not be convicted, while Democrats believe it is necessary to move forward with the case.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called the impeachment trial against the former president a “partisan farce” and asserted that there is no chance that Trump will be convicted.
“Forty-five Republicans have said it’s not even a legitimate proceeding, so it’s really over before it starts. As for witnesses, I think it’s unlikely there will be witnesses; if they want witnesses, there will be so much evidence that the president had nothing to do with this,” he said.
In January, Paul raised a point of order in the Senate claiming that impeachment is unconstitutional. In the end, only five Republicans joined the Senate’s 50 Democrats in saying the trial is constitutionally permissible. That means 12 Republicans would have to change their minds on whether impeachment is constitutional for Democrats to have a chance to convict Trump.
“Impeachment is a political process. We have never impeached a president once he is out of office. I think this is a very bad idea. Forty-five Republicans are going to vote from the beginning that it’s unconstitutional. It’s not a question of how the trial ends. It’s a question of when it ends,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Graham also stated that he does not endorse the events of January 6th and does not retract his earlier statements holding Trump partly responsible for the attack on the Capitol. However, he noted that he does not believe the former president committed a crime.
Impeachment: a labyrinth of form and substance
Impeachment in the U.S. is a political trial through which the principle of accountability of officials can be enforced.
Senators may now vote to bar Trump from ever holding public office again. Some constitutional scholars have argued that the Senate could, with a simple majority vote, bar Trump from holding the office of president in the future.
The former president is charged with inciting an insurrection on January 6th on Capitol Hill. Although all indications are that Trump will be spared from this second impeachment, it is still unclear what path the Senate will take to conduct the hearings.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have yet to announce an agreement on how the actual impeachment hearings will work. All that is known is that the matter will occur on Tuesday at 1 p. m. and that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will oversee the proceedings.
It is also unknown how long the trial will last, whether there will be witnesses or how it will be structured as it unfolds.
Trump’s trial stems from an impeachment vote in the House last Jan. 13th, a week after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol after the then-president repeatedly claimed “voter fraud” in last December’s election.
According to Fox News, the trial would begin with four hours of debate on whether it is constitutional or not, and then proceed to a vote that would open the hearings.
This Monday, Feb. 8th, House impeachment trial managers and Trump’s defense team will also submit a second round of reports to the Senate as part of a pre-trial agreement reached between McConnell and Schumer. Those briefs should provide an additional window into how each side will present its arguments.
Although Democrats now slightly 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.
Against such a proceeding, Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz argued that “Congress does not have the power to conduct an impeachment trial for any official after he or she has left office.”