The impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is constitutional, the US Senate has found on February 9.
Therefore, the Senate is allowing full impeachment proceedings to begin.
Donald Trump’s defense team argued that he could not face trial after leaving the White House.
A 56-44 majority voted in favor of continuing, with a handful of Republicans backing the measure.
Donald Trump is accused of “inciting insurrection” when Congress was stormed on January 6.
Thousands gathered in support of claims that widespread electoral fraud denied Donald Trump victory in the presidential election.
However, Donald Trump is almost certain to be acquitted because only six Republican senators voted to move forward with impeachment, well short of the 17 Republicans whose votes would be needed to convict the former president.
Democrats prosecuting the case opened the proceedings by showing a dramatic video montage of Donald Trump’s January 6 speech and the deadly rioting by some of his supporters.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said of the footage: “If that’s not an impeachable offence, then there’s no such thing.”
Donald Trump’s lawyers argued it was unconstitutional to put a former president through the process at all and accused Democrats of being politically motivated.
A two-thirds majority is required to convict Donald Trump in the evenly split 100-seat Senate. February 9 vote implies loyalty toward Donald Trump in the Republican Party remains high enough to avoid a conviction.
However, if convicted, the former president could be barred from holding office again.
Proceedings opened with impeachment managers – the Democrats tasked with leading the prosecution – arguing their attempts were legitimate.
In the 10-minute video used in their presentation, Donald Trump was shown telling his supporters to “fight like hell” before they stormed the Capitol in violence that resulted in five deaths – including a police officer.
Rep. Jamie Raskin was brought to tears as he recounted fear for his own family’s safety during the riot after he was separated from his visiting daughter.
“This cannot be the future of America,” he told senators, who act as jurors for impeachment.
“We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States.”
Rep. Raskin argued there could be no “January exception” to impeaching outgoing officials without risking a dangerous precedent.
Donald Trump’s lawyers then took the stand to outline their arguments with detailed complaints and allegations about due process and the constitutionality of proceedings.
Former Pennsylvania prosecutor Bruce Castor opened the defense with a meandering presentation that was met with a critical reception by even allies of the former president.
A second lawyer, David Schoen, was more pointed. He showed videos dating back to 2017 as evidence of what he labeled as an “insatiable lust for impeachment” among Democratic lawmakers.
He told senators: “What they really want to accomplish here in the name of the Constitution is to bar Donald Trump from ever running for political office again, but this is an affront to the Constitution no matter who they target today.”
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the six to vote with Democrats, said after that the House prosecution had “made a compelling, cogent case and the president’s team did not”.
Media reports suggest Donald Trump – whose Twitter account has been banned – expressed anger at his lawyers’ performance while watching on TV from Florida.
Democrats have announced the House will
vote on January 15 on sending articles of impeachment against President Donald
Trump to the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told
fellow Democrats she would also name the House managers who will prosecute the
case against President Trump in the Senate trial.
Nancy Pelosi has been withholding
the articles of impeachment in a row with Republicans over allowing witnesses.
Donald Trump was impeached by the
Democratic-led House last month.
The president is accused of abuse of
power and obstruction of Congress.
He denies trying to pressure Ukraine
to open an investigation into his would-be Democratic White House challenger
President Trump has been touting
unsubstantiated corruption claims about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who
accepted a lucrative board position with a Ukrainian energy company while his
father handled American-Ukraine relations as US vice-president.
The impeachment trial by the Senate
will be only the third ever of a US president.
Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans
control the chamber 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit him.
Once the resolution is approved, the
House managers will walk to the Senate and formally present the articles of
impeachment in the well of the chamber, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms. The
articles of impeachment will be read out.
On January 14, Senate leader Mitch
McConnell met Republican senators behind closed doors to map out the ground
He said the trial was likely to
begin in earnest on January 21.
The first couple of days will
involve housekeeping duties, possibly later this week.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John
Roberts will be sworn in to preside, and he will administer an oath to all 100
senators to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors.
Lawmakers may hear opening arguments
next week. The House managers will lay out their case against President Trump,
and his legal team will respond.
The trial is expected to last up to
five weeks, with the Senate taking only Sundays off.
President Trump suggested over the weekend that he might prefer simply
dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to the “hoax”
case against him.
Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah
have made clear they would oppose any such motion.
On January 14, the White House said the president is “not afraid of a
fight” in his trial.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said President Trump was in fact eager
for witnesses to testify that “this man did nothing wrong”.
One of the biggest sticking points between House Democrats and Senate
Republicans has been whether testimony will be allowed during the trial.
Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Rounds said on January 14 the
Senate’s trial plan will guarantee votes on whether to call witnesses and hear
It takes just 51 votes to approve rules or call witnesses, meaning four
Republican senators would have to side with Democrats to insist on testimony.
The White House is understood to have identified several possible defectors
in the Republican ranks, including Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.
The others are Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado
and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring this year.
Republicans say that if witnesses are allowed, they may try to subpoena Joe Biden and his son, and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump sparked the whole impeachment inquiry.
Former White House aide Fiona Hill has
told the impeachment inquiry that President Donald Trump disregarded the advice
of senior advisers to push a false theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016
She said the president had instead
listened to the views of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Fiona Hill called the claims about
Ukraine a “fictional narrative”.
The inquiry is assessing if
President Trump withheld aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political
President Trump denies any
According to a discredited theory,
it was Ukrainians or individuals with Ukrainian connections who interfered in
the 2016 vote, rather than Russia.
In a phone call with the Ukrainian
president, President Trump urged him to look into the claims as well as open an
investigation into Joe Biden, one of the main Democratic presidential
November 21 is fifth and last
scheduled day of public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee.
In her opening statement, Fiona Hill – the former top Russia experts to the
White House – accused other Republicans of sowing doubt about Russian
interference in the 2016 elections.
She said: “Based on questions and
statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that
Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country
– and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.”
Fiona Hill urged lawmakers not to promote “politically driven
falsehoods” that cast doubt on Russia’s interference in US elections.
“This is a fictional narrative
that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services
themselves,” she said.
During Fiona Hill’s testimony, Democratic lawyer Daniel Goldman asked her: “So is it your understanding then that
President Trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials about this
theory and instead listened to Rudy Giuliani’s views?”
“That appears to be the case,
yes,” she replied.
In her later testimony, Fiona Hill warned that Rudy Giuliani had been making
“explosive” and “incendiary” claims about Ukraine.
She said: “He was clearly pushing
forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us.
“I think that’s where we are
Fiona Hill testified that she had a couple of “testy encounters”
with Gordon Sondland – the US ambassador to the EU who testified on November 20
– over Ukraine, because the ambassador did not keep her informed of “all
the meetings he was having”.
US ambassador to Ukraine David Holmes also testified at November 21 hearing.
In his opening statement, David Holmes said that his work at the embassy in
Kiev became overshadowed in 2019 by the actions of Rudy Giuliani.
He said: “I became aware that Mr.
Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.”
David Holmes added that he was “shocked” on July 18 when an official from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
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