- The Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump has begun.
- Tuesday’s proceedings focused on the constitutionality of holding impeachment proceedings for a former president with four hours of debate allocated to the issue.
- Now that a majority has voted to proceed, the prosecution and defence will have 16 hours each to present their case.
- House impeachment managers argued that Trump’s campaign of misinformation to overturn the victory of President Joe Biden, and his comments to supporters before the US Capitol riot on January 6, amounted to ‘incitement of insurrection’.
- Trump’s defence argued that he cannot be convicted after leaving office, and that his words are protected as free speech.
Analyst: House Democrats likely to focus on Trump’s refusal to accept election results
While House Democratic impeachment managers’ opening video juxtaposing Trump’s speech leading up to the US Capitol riot, followed by images of the violence, was their “strongest” point, it is expected they will shift their argument as the trial continues, Yahoo chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff told Al Jazeera.
“The House managers made their strongest, strongest points with that video of the events of January 6. But I think we can expect them to spend a lot more time on the run-up to January 6: How Trump pushed what is now widely considered the ‘big lie’ of election fraud,” said Isikoff.
“The House managers will focus more on that to put the events of January 6 into this broader context of Trump refusing to accept the results of a democratic election,” he said.
US Senate adjourns Trump impeachment trial until noon on Wednesday
US Senate upholds constitutionality of impeachment trial of former president
The US Senate has ruled it has authority under the US Constitution to conduct an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Trump’s lawyers had argued that the Constitution does not provide for impeachment of a former president. The Senate voted 56-44 that the trial is constitutional as some Republicans joined most Democrats in rejecting Trump’s argument.
Trump lawyers says ‘total lack of due process’
Trump lawyer Schoen called for the impeachment article to be dismissed because of a “total lack of due process” for the former president
Schoen said the House should have allowed then-President Trump to present a defence, and answer the charges, and that now as a private citizen, the senate can not try him.
“To impeach the president of the United States, without any semblance of due process at every step along the way, puts the office of the president of the United States at risk, every single day,” he said.
Trump lawyer Schoen: Democrats seeking to ‘eliminate’ Trump from politics
In a forceful presentation, Trump lawyer David Schoen accused Democrats of “abusing the impeachment power for political gain.”
Schoen decried the impeachment trial as Democrats “chance” to “eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene”.
He added that Democrats sought to “disenfranchise 74 million plus American voters and those who dare to share their political beliefs and vision of America”.
He said House managers presented “unsupportable constitutional theory and tortured reading of the text”, and said he would show that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to hold an impeachment trial of a former president.
He also renewed an argument used widely in Trump’s first impeachment trial, that Democrats had sought to impeach Trump since he won the election.
Trump lawyer says he lost the election, even though Trump won’t
Trump lawyer Castor said during his opening remarks that Trump had lost the 2020 election, a fact the former president himself has refused to acknowledge.
In opening remarks Tuesday, lawyer Bruce Castor said: “The American people are smart enough to pick a new administration if they don’t like the old one. And they just did.”
Later, Castor referred to Trump, saying: “He was removed by the voters.”
Trump has repeatedly disputed the results of the election, falsely claiming he won in a “landside”. While he eventually acknowledged a new administration would take office, he has not, to date, admitted that he lost.
Castor says Democrats afraid Trump will run in 2024
Trump defence lawyer Castor, in meandering statements to the Senate, suggested that Democrats want to convict Trump only to prevent him from running in 20204.
“We are really here because the majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future,” he said.
“That’s why they have to get over the jurisdictional hurdle, which they can’t get over…in order to get to the part of the constitution that allows removal,” he said, referring to the constitutional question of whether a former president can face an impeachment trial.
“Is that what the fear is, is the fear that the people in 2024, in fact, will want to change, and will want to go back to Donald Trump, and not the current occupant of the White House, President Biden,” he said.
Trump lawyer Castor says proceeding with trial ‘slippery slope’
Trump lawyer Castor, in a lengthy and winding opening argument, warned that allowing the trial to go ahead creates a “slipper slope”.
“The political pendulum will shift one day, when this chamber and the chamber across the way will change. One day, and partisan impeachments will become commonplace.”
“So the slippery slope principle will have taken hold, if we continue to go forward with what is happening today and scheduled to happen later this week.”
Trump defence begins arguments
Bruce Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney who is representing Trump in the impeachment trial, sought to distance the defence from the violence on January 6.
“You’ll never hear anybody representing for President Trump say anything at all other than what happened on January 6,” he said.
“And the storming breaching of the Capitol should be denounced in the most vigorous terms, nor that those persons responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent that our laws allow.”
The defence is set to argue that it is unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president and that Trump’s words and actions were protected by freedom of speech.
Analyst: Senators to take “empty” impartiality oath
Senators, who essentially serve as jurors during this trial, will soon take an oath of impartiality, although “that’s something of an empty pledge” as many have already made up their minds, former US deputy attorney general Harry Litman told Al Jazeera.
Despite that fact, “there are right and wrong answers here, and I think the House mangers laid out a very compelling case against the constitutional challenge, and senators who ignore that case and ignore the vote that will be coming at the end of the day are not really being true to their oaths,” Litman added.