House Democrats on Monday night delivered to the Senate the article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In doing so, they began the process leading to Trump’s second impeachment trial.
A conviction in the Senate would be mostly symbolic at this point, since Trump is no longer president, but it could lead to a separate resolution that would bar him from holding elected office again.
At 7 p.m. ET on Monday, nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in the upcoming trial made the ceremonial walk through the Capitol building to the Senate chamber to deliver the article of impeachment charging “former President Donald John Trump” with “incitement of insurrection.”
The impeachment managers appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Joe Neguse, D-Colo., David Cicilline, D-R.I., Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., and Stacey Plaskett, D-U.S. Virgin Islands.
Raskin, who is serving as the lead impeachment manager, read the single article of impeachment against Trump on the Senate floor Monday night.
What does the article of impeachment say?
The article alleges that Trump’s actions before the deadly siege, including the fiery speech he gave at a rally falsely claiming that the election had been stolen, helped incite the riot, which left five people dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, and dozens of others injured.
It reads in part:
President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.
On the floor of the Senate on Monday, Raskin read a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that laid out the basic case against Trump. The president, Pelosi wrote, “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people.” Pelosi revisited the statements made by Trump at a Washington, DC, rally shortly before his supporters ransacked the Capitol building in a violent riot that left five people dead, claiming that they had helped incite the mob.
Pelosi also focussed on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results prior to the Jan. 6 riot, including a phone call he placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during which he asked him to find enough votes to overturn the results in the battleground state.
“In all this, President Trump greatly endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a co-equal branch of government,” Pelosi said in the statement read by Raskin.
Though Trump left office on Jan. 20, Pelosi’s statement continued, his actions warranted “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”
What happens next?
All 100 U.S. senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, and a summons will be formally issued to Trump for his response, which will be due on Feb. 2.
When do the impeachment hearings begin?
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said late last week that Trump’s trial would start the week of Feb. 8. In a timeline that was agreed to by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump would have until Feb. 8 to submit a pretrial brief, and House Democrats would have 24 hours to respond, meaning the trial could start as early as Feb. 9.
How long will the trial take?
That is hard to know. Trump’s first impeachment trial, held last year, took nearly three weeks, but there were two charges to consider then. Schumer said on Sunday that the second trial would be fairly quick.
“Everyone wants to put this awful chapter in American history behind us. But sweeping it under the rug will not bring healing,” Schumer said. “I believe it will be a fair trial. But it will move relatively quickly and not take up too much time because we have so much else to do.”
Who will preside over the trial?
Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump’s first trial. But because Trump is out of office, the trial will be run by the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate (generally the longest-serving senator of the majority party), currently Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Who is on Trump’s defense team?
The former president began to assemble his defense team last week, hiring South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, who previously served as counsel to Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford, both former Republican governors of South Carolina. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he would not be able to represent the former president at the trial, citing his own speech at the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
What is his defense?
Trump’s defense team is expected to argue that he was simply exercising his right to free speech, and that during his remarks he specifically called on his supporters to “peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard.
Other Republicans have claimed that, under the Constitution, you can’t impeach and remove someone who’s no longer in office. But as NBC News pointed out, there is historical precedent for impeaching someone who formerly held federal office:
In 1876, as the U.S. House of Representatives was about to vote on articles of impeachment against Secretary of War William Belknap over corruption charges, Belknap walked over to the White House, submitted his resignation letter to President Ulysses S. Grant and burst into tears.
The House still went ahead and impeached Belknap, and the Senate tried him, with the impeachment managers arguing that departing office doesn’t excuse the alleged offense — otherwise, officeholders would simply resign to escape conviction or impeachment. And the Senate voted in 1876, by a 37-29 margin, that Belknap was eligible to be impeached and tried even though he resigned from office.
What are the chances of a conviction?
A conviction would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, meaning at least 17 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats. (If Trump is convicted, a separate resolution to prevent him from running for office again could pass by a simple majority.)
In Trump’s trial last year, only one Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, voted for conviction (on one of the two articles Trump was facing). Romney appears to be leaning the same way this time. “I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “If not, what is?”
The leader of Republicans in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, kept the rest of his caucus in line behind the president in the first trial. But he has had a falling out with Trump since the election, and said his members can vote their consciences this time and that he would wait to hear the evidence before deciding how to vote.
Still, a growing number of senators have said they oppose even holding a trial, making the chances of a conviction slim.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called the idea of having a trial in such a divisive political climate “stupid” and “counterproductive.”
“We already have a flaming fire in this country,” Rubio said. “It’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.”
What does the American public think?
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday showed that a slim majority of Americans (51 percent) believe Trump should be convicted, and 55 percent said he should be barred from holding public office. The responses were almost entirely along party lines, with nine out of 10 Democrats and fewer than two in 10 Republicans favoring conviction.
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