It’s not confusing that Donald Trump is the first President to be impeached twice, but it can be confusing keeping track of what’s going on. Here’s what you need to know.
Trump’s impeachment trial begins in the Senate this week, and it could be a long one – each week following the Capitol insurrection, more information comes out about those who participated in storming the Capitol in January and the experiences of members of Congress who did not know if they would live to see another day.
What is Trump being tried for?
The House has said that Trump refusing to acknowledge his loss in the 2020 Presidential election inspired insurrectionists to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021. His Save America rally prior to the insurrection is viewed as the final nail in the coffin, as his rhetoric became more direct, telling supporters to “fight like hell” and that they “won by a landslide.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi nominated nine Congresspeople to manage the impeachment trial on January 12. She said doing so is a “solemn privilege.” Each Congressperson is a member of the Democratic party. This should not come as a surprise, given the majority of the Republican party acquitted Trump and have received potentially career-ending backlash as a result.
The impeachment vote broke down to 232 yays, 197 nays, and four abstained. The 10 Republican representatives who voted for impeachment were Liz Cheney (WY At-large District), Tom Rice (SC-07), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), Fred Upton (MI-06), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Peter Meijer (MI-03), John Katko (NY-24), and David Valadao (CA-21).
The democratic managers Jamie Raskin (Lead Manager, MD-08), Diana DeGette (CO-01), David Cicilline (RI-01), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Stacey Plaskett (US Virgin Islands At-large District), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), and Joe Neguse (CO-02) crafted an 80-page brief breaking down their position.
They mince no words in stating their argument: Trump “violated his oath of office, attacked the democratic process, imperiled Congress, and undermined national security.” Important subsections of the argument include that “there is no defense for President Trump’s conduct” and “the Senate has jurisdiction to try this impeachment.”
What is Trump’s defense?
Crying free speech, Trump’s team of lawyers say the trial is unconstitutional. Since Trump is no longer president, his team argues he is a private citizen and should not be tried.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) agrees it is unconstitutional and went as far as saying it is a “political farce” and that there is “zero chance” of a conviction. Forty-five other Republican senators voted to dismiss the impeachment because it is unconstitutional, proving Paul has others on his side.
So is conviction in the Senate likely? We’ll see. Pay close attention to the Senate Republicans who have deemed the impeachment unconstitutional, and to Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has gone on the record saying he is not sure how he will vote.
Trump cut his entire prior impeachment defense team of five lawyers just days before the trial’s start. He named two new lawyers: David Schoen and Bruce Castor. Castor served as Pennsylvania’s district attorney, and Schoen previously represented Roger J. Stone Jr., Trump’s former advisor, when he was charged with lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction. Trump later commuted Stone, freeing him of his 40-month prison sentence.
It is unclear if Trump will be adding more lawyers to the defense team at this time, and we can’t learn it through Twitter since the former President has been banned from the platform.
The two-person defense team put forth a 14-page brief in hopes of a complete acquittal of the singular article of impeachment. The first part of the argument invalidates impeachment because Trump is no longer the sitting president and now a private citizen. They also cite the Constitution, and continually do so throughout the document, mainly referencing free speech.
His team also asserts that Trump never violated his oath. Although they acknowledge the insurrection, they do not admit that Trump incited it. They argue his rhetoric did not directly cause the insurrection but rather spoke toward general security concerns. Additionally, even with significant recorded evidence of Trump’s actions to change the course of the election, this behavior is denied.
Point to Ponder: Hillary Clinton was a private citizen during the Benghazi Trial, something Trump supporters used to discredit her integrity throughout the 2016 election and to this day.
What is Biden’s Stance?
Biden has remained withdrawn from the impeachment process, choosing instead to focus his messaging on Covid-19 and the economy. A source connected to the White House has remarked, “[Biden has] already said that he thought [there] were grounds for impeachment but he has to stay focused on helping people in this crisis.” When questioned by reporters for his stance on the impeachment, Biden stated that he would leave deliberations up to the Senate.
Each brief put forth an argument that all Americans will patiently await the verdict of. Neither side will call witnesses in the interest of a speedy trial. The trial is yet another circumstance clouding the Biden Administration’s transition into power.
C-SPAN, PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are all networks committed to showing the Senate proceedings of the impeachment. Their websites should also be streaming the content.