The opening statements in the impeachment of Donald Trump will begin on Wednesday, after an emotional first day that ended with the Senate vote in favor of holding the trial of the former president for inciting the assault on the United States Capitol even though he is no longer in the position.
The Democratic representatives who are leading the prosecution and the former president’s lawyers will present their arguments to the senators, who serve as a jury. The defense lost by 56 votes to 44 the vote in which they asked to suspend the process, claiming that it was unconstitutional. That provoked Trump’s anger at the work of his lawyers and caused his allies to question the defense strategy. Some called for new changes to their legal team.
The indictment dragged senators and the entire country back into the deadly attack on Congress on Tuesday, showing an explicit video of the January 6 violence that shocked the world when hundreds of insurgents stormed the building in an attempt to stop the certification of the electoral victory of Democrat Joe Biden. Five people died.RELATED
That detailed and crude presentation by the Democrats was followed by the scattered and sometimes confrontational arguments of the Trump team, which insisted that the former president’s comments were protected by the First Amendment and said that he cannot be convicted once his term is over. mandate. Even Trump supporters in the Senate reacted disapprovingly, with several saying the former president’s lawyers were not helping his cause.
The strong emotional toll of the process underscores Trump’s legacy as the first president to face impeachment after leaving office, and the first to be challenged twice. Although many of the jurors have already made their decision, the senators will have to rule on whether to convict or acquit Trump of the sole charge of “inciting insurrection.”
“That is a felony and serious misdemeanor,” declared Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin in his opening arguments. “If that is not an impeachment offense, then there is no such thing.”
Trump’s lawyers insist he is not guilty, and his fiery words were just literary license.
Security remains very high on Capitol Hill, a place that has changed after the attack. It is now cordoned off with razor wire and there are National Guards on patrol. The nine heads of the House of Representatives crossed the closed building to instruct the case before the Senate.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would not follow his predecessor’s judgment.
“Joe Biden is the president, he is not a commentator, he is not going to comment on the arguments for and against,” he said.
Before senators who swore to impart impartial justice, the trial began with the harsh chronicle of the accusation, describing how the chaos left crippled police officers and assailants walking through the same chamber where the trial was held.
Trump’s team responded by stating that the Constitution does not allow for an impeachment this late. Although the process is moving forward, that is a legal issue that could attract Republicans eager to acquit Trump without appearing to approve of his behavior.
Lead defense counsel Bruce Castor said he changed his intended strategy after hearing the rival presentation, instead addressing senators directly, saying that Trump’s team would only condemn the “disgusting” attack and “report the rioters in the strongest possible way.” He called on senators to act “like patriots first and foremost” and to have a “cool head” when considering the arguments.
Trump’s lawyer David Schoen raised the trial as a partisan issue and claimed that the Democrats acted out of “elemental hatred” against the former president.
The initial problems of the defense also showed the difficult task of Trump’s lawyers in defending pre-insurrectionary conduct personally suffered by senators. Although they will almost certainly obtain their acquittal – due to the composition of the Senate – they still face a challenge of stripping a trial focused on still sensitive events, even for Republicans, of emotion.
Despite the 56-44 vote in favor of the Senate’s authority to decide the case even after the end of the presidential term, the numbers are still far from the two-thirds threshold, or 67 votes, necessary for a conviction.
It seems unlikely the prosecution will call witnesses, and Trump has declined a request to testify.
The trial is expected to continue through the weekend.