Senate Impeachment Trial Starts, as Democrats Argue It’s Constitutional

February 9, 2021 Updated: February 9, 2021

As the second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump started in earnest on Tuesday afternoon, House Democratic impeachment managers said that the Senate has the full constitutional authority to put Trump on trial—coming after his lawyers argued that it is unconstitutional to try a former president.

Trump “refuses to accept responsibility for his actions” and his pre-trial brief “highlights the danger he continues to pose to the Nation he betrayed,” said the impeachment managers, a group led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in a rebuttal on Tuesday.

On Monday, Trump’s attorneys laid out a case as to why the impeachment charge should be dismissed. Last month, all Democrats and 10 Republicans in the House impeached Trump for allegedly inciting an insurrection, saying that his speech on Jan. 6 led to the riots at the Capitol.

Trump’s lawyers and the former president himself have denied that he incited violence, saying that he called on supporters to peacefully make their voices heard. His lawyers have argued that his comments were protected under the First Amendment, adding that the Senate cannot try a former president who doesn’t hold office.

“The language of the Constitution gives the Senate ‘the sole Power to try all Impeachments’—not just impeachments involving sitting officials,” Democrats wrote in response.

The Senate trial is likely doomed to fail. Forty-five Republican senators voted against holding the trial several weeks ago when it came to the Senate floor; the upper chamber requires 67 votes to convict a president.

Arguments on Tuesday are being led by Raskin as well as Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who are members of the House Judiciary panel.

As for how long the trial is scheduled to last, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he came to an agreement on Monday night with Republicans on the timing and framework.

Epoch Times Photo
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) presides over the first day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 9, 2021.  (Congress.gov via Getty Images)

Another argument that the former president’s attorneys will attempt, according to their brief on Monday, is an attempt to dispel the notion that Trump did nothing during the Capitol breach on Jan. 6. They wrote that there was a “flurry of activity” in the administration to get more security to the Capitol.

The impeachment “was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on January 6 by a few hundred people,” Trump’s lawyers added. “Instead of acting to heal the nation, or at the very least focusing on prosecuting the lawbreakers who stormed the Capitol, the Speaker of the House and her allies have tried to callously harness the chaos of the moment for their own political gain.”

According to the lawmakers, there will be four hours of debate on Tuesday about whether the trial should be dismissed. Several weeks ago, 45 GOP senators voted to reject holding the impeachment trial, suggesting that the former president will not be convicted—as the Senate requires 67 votes to convict a president.

After that, there will be up to 16 hours for each side to present their cases starting on Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET. Then, there will be a total of four hours for senators to question both sides. Should witnesses or documents be subpoenaed, more time may be allotted.