Recap of Day 1 of former President Trump’s second impeachment trial

On Tuesday, the Senate began a session to discuss the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, which would make him the first president to be impeached after leaving office.

This trial will go down in history as the first impeachment of an American Head of State after their departure from office. At 1:00 pm, Senators voted on a resolution to determine the guidelines for the presentation of articles for and against the impeachment of President Trump. In a vote of 89-11, the Senate agreed on a timeline of 4 days (2 days each) for both the defense and prosecution to present their arguments. The presentation of the arguments, beginning on Wed the 9th, are likely to be significantly shorter than in President Trump’s first impeachment trial which lasted several weeks. 

When the Senate met on Tuesday night, the Trump legal team appealed for a hearing regarding the constitutionality of the impeachment itself. The legal team insisted that the proceeding trial was unconstitutional due to the absence of a Supreme Court Justice, as Chief Justice John Roberts’ refusal to oversee the impeachment trial. However, in a vote of 56-44, the Trump legal team’s arguments were dismissed. Despite the lines of the Senate being a 50-50 partisan split, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer led the 50 Democrats in voting to proceed with the trial, alongside six additional Republican Senators. However, in order to convict the former President, it would require at least 17 Republican Senators to vote for conviction, in addition to all 50 Democrats voting as a unit.

The entire first day was dedicated to presenting the articles of impeachment against the former president and outlining the prosecution’s articles of impeachment and whether the articles of impeachment are constitutionally binding. It was presented that President Trump faces one article of impeachment for “Incitement of Insurrection,” a legal offense defined as “a conscious provocation of a violent uprising against the state.” The case promoted by the prosecution is that during the last week of President Trump’s office, he knowingly encouraged his supporters to storm the capitol in response to the Senate’s meeting regarding the validity of the electoral committee’s votes– an event in which a confirmed 5 people were killed. The events occurred during the quorum held by the Senate. While many of the protesters who entered the capitol building were simply ordinary people, it was confirmed that the events could be classified as a terrorist insurrection. Due to a confirmed presence of pipe bombs, firearms, and other violent weapons. 

The following two days will be encompassed by the presentation of the arguments for and against the impeachment of the former president Donald Trump. The reason for the impeachment, however, is not as legally, and more politically, charged as it was described in their articles of impeachment. While some have argued that this impeachment trial– whether or not President Trump is guilty of the charges– is not necessary, as President Trump has already left office, the Democrats argue otherwise. The main goal of the Democrats is this: if a President is convicted and found guilty in trial, the Senate can prohibit the president from running for any government office.

The prosecuting Democrats, however, do have an evidence-based legal case for conviction. It’s likely that this case will be mostly through the inclusion of individual statements of President Trump’s individual statements regarding the protest that preceded the riots, including when he said “The Republic needs to learn how to fight.” or  when he said to “fight like hell.” However, it’s disputed whether these individual statements will be enough to make a case for conviction for the former president.

Meanwhile, the Republicans will likely plan their defense differently to previous defendants: they will likely use the legal prosecution of the insurrectionists as a blueprint. Their defense is likely to focus on proving that the capitol riots, regardless of its definition as an insurrection or not, was premeditated and unaffected by the words of the president. This is supported by the rioters possession of pipe bombs and firearms. Thus, the legal prosecution of the protestors as “armed insurrectionists” on treasonous charges against the state, as treason and/or conspiracy to commit treason are charges of premeditated criminal acts.

The classification of the crimes committed by the rioters as “premeditated offenses” is, thus, beneficial to the defense. As President Trump had not made these comments until the hours leading up to the riots, the defense will likely use this to claim that the protestors’ criminal acts were unaffected by the President’s comments. While these are likely arguments to be presented in the following days, it’s not clear how the trial will conclude or what it will solve. Even if this trial ends with a conviction, this is likely not the last we will see of the former President.




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