Impeachment Trial Day One to Kick off with Debate over Constitutionality

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 9: (L-R) Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) walk to a news conference on the first day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 9, 2021 …
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The first day of the Senate impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump begins Tuesday afternoon as Democrats hope to build an emotional case tying the former president directly to the January 6 Capitol riot. The end goal, as they have said, is a conviction in the Senate and permanent disqualification from ever running for office again.

Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), President pro tempore of the chamber, will preside over the trial, which will begin at 1 p.m. Chief Justice John Roberts is not presiding as Donald Trump is no longer a sitting president, making this, Trump’s second impeachment trial, particularly unique.

While both sides — the House impeachment managers and former President Trump’s counsel — will have 16 hours to present their cases, day one will involve four hours of debate over the constitutionality of proceeding with the trial, given Trump’s status as a former president. The Senate will then vote on whether to proceed. It is expected to pass as it did last month following Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) motion, which raised questions over the constitutionality of the current process. Forty-five GOP senators voted with Paul, signaling a surefire acquittal for Trump, as Democrats would need 17 GOP senators to join them to reach 67 votes for a conviction.

“This ‘trial’ is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Paul declared after the vote.

Both sides have until Wednesday at 9 a.m. to file motions, and arguments are expected to begin Wednesday at noon:

The House will go first, having 16 hours to build their case followed by Trump’s lawyers, who will have the same amount of time.

According to Fox News, “as the trial is currently set up, it will pause at 5 p.m. on Friday until 2 p.m. Sunday in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, at the request of Trump lawyer David Schoen.” However, that could change, as Schoen retracted his request this week, recognizing the importance “to bring to a conclusion for all involved and for the country”:

But Schoen withdrew that request Monday evening, saying that “I will not participate during the Sabbath; but the role I would have played will be fully covered to the satisfaction of the defense team.” He said that he did not want to delay the proceedings because “I recognize is important to bring to a conclusion for all involved and for the country.”

This would mean the Senate could hold a full session on Saturday and would instead take Sunday off. The adjustment is not official yet, but Fox News is told that Schoen’s letter will likely lead the Senate to change its schedule.

Ultimately, senators will have hours to question both Trump’s counsel and the House managers and will have to vote on whether witnesses are warranted, which could extend the trial:

House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, (D-MD), include Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Madeleine Dean (D-PA).

Speaking to Politico, top aides said the House managers’ case will “be more like a violent crime criminal prosecution, because that is what it is.”

“It will tell the story, the full story of … how the president incited it. Jan. 6 was the culmination of that incitement with his conduct leading up to it giving meaning and context to his words,” one adviser said.

That follows reports of impeachment managers building what has been described as an “emotionally charged” case against the former president.

The single article of impeachment against Trump, which accuses him of incitement of insurrection, states that he “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 or certified by State or federal officials.”

He “reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide’” during his speech at the “Save America” rally ahead of the Joint Session of Congress, the article continues. It also accuses Trump of “willfully” making statements that “in context, encourage — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.'”

The article states:

Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Join Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.

The article concludes that Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government” and “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,” the article reads, concluding that Trump’s actions warrant an “impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

Hours prior to the start of the trial, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to social media and reiterated his stance.

“The United States Capitol was invaded and desecrated,” he said, claiming that the impeachment trial is about “truth and accountability”:

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