The Senate wrapped up initial arguments Tuesday afternoon and is set to begin hearing evidence Wednesday in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after rebuffing arguments by the former president’s lawyers that the entire proceeding was unconstitutional and lacked due process.
Trump’s lawyers – David Schoen and Bruce Castor – contended Tuesday there is no legal justification to hold a trial for a president who is no longer in office. But senators sided with House managers prosecuting the case – as well as a wide swath of legal experts – that the Senate is bound to hold a trial considering Trump was impeached before he left office.
The vote was 56-44 with six Republicans joining every Democrat to go forward with the trial.
Wednesday is expected to be the first opportunity for impeachment managers, the House Democrats prosecuting the case, to present what they say is new evidence to convict the former president on a single article that he incited a pro-Trump mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Both sides offered a preview Tuesday of what was to come in a trial expected to last several more days.
Democrats said the mob followed the lead of Trump, who encouraged supporters in a speech before the riot to protest the counting of Electoral College votes at the Capitol.
Trump’s attorneys argued that while the assault was horrific and the rioters should be prosecuted, Trump bore no responsibility for their actions.
– Ledyard King
The Senate voted largely along party lines Tuesday to uphold the constitutionality of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, allowing the proceedings to move forward.
Six Republican senators joined Democrats in rejecting an effort by the former president’s lawyers to dismiss the case. The team had argued the trial was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
The decision means the trial will resume noon Wednesday with the nine Democratic House impeachment managers presenting evidence that the then-president incited the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
The vote came after both the managers, who are tasked with prosecuting the former president, and Trump’s defense team each argued their cases for two hours.
Citing the 1876 impeachment trial of former War Secretary William Belknap, Democrats said the Senate already has established precedent to hold officials accountable even after they became private citizens.
Not doing so, said Rep. Joe Neguse, one of the impeachment managers, “would invite future presidents to use their power without fear of accountability.”
But Trump’s lawyers argued that there was no legal avenue to punish a president who no longer holds office. Attorney David Schoen called the notion that officials could be tried long after leaving office “a radical constitutional theory.”
– Ledyard King
Though Republicans joined Democrats in pushing the impeachment trial of Donald Trump forward Tuesday, it still doesn’t appear as if Democrats have enough GOP backing to convict the former president.
House Democratic impeachment managers need at least 67 of the 100 senators to vote to convict Trump in order to secure a conviction. But 44 Republican senators voted Tuesday that the trial was unconstitutional, more than enough to block a Trump conviction.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana added his name to the list of Republican senators who have said the trial is constitutional, denying a challenge from Trump’s legal team. He joins Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania who had already voted to support the legality of the trial last month.
Cassidy was the only GOP Senator who originally opposed the trial to vote in support of it Tuesday.
Cassidy praised the opening arguments by House managers, who are prosecuting the case, after Tuesdays proceedings ended.
“The House managers were focused. They were organized. They relied upon both precedent, the Constitution and legal scholars,” he said. “They made a compelling reason. President Trump’s team was disorganized. They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glide it over, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Several Republicans appeared impressed after hearing the start of Democratic impeachment managers’ arguments in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
“I thought the attorneys were very well prepared and well spoken,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. “I think, actually the Democrats sent a better team this year than last.”
Wicker has been viewed as a likely vote for Trump’s acquittal and already voted to dismiss the trial on constitutional grounds. He said despite the presentation, “it did not change my mind” that the proceedings violated the Constitution.
Fellow Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana called the presentation a “very good opening.”
“I’m trying to digest facts and I thought the arguments they gave were strong arguments,” he said of Democrats and their points on the constitutionality of holding the impeachment trial. “Clearly we have to hear the opposition but they presented very good arguments.”
Cassidy added that he’s “approaching this with an open mind and I’m there to listen as an impartial juror to both sides.”
— Christal Hayes
Citing what he called an “egregious denial” of due process, Donald Trump’s lawyer David Schoen said the former president’s impeachment trial should immediately end.
Schoen cited the House’s decision not only to fast-track the impeachment article without hearings or witnesses, but also the decision to hold the trial after Trump left office. Because the trial is not of a sitting president but rather a former one, President Pro Tem Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. – not Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts – is presiding over the trial.
“This proceeding, lacking due process, must end now,” Schoen told senators.
Trump left office Jan. 20, two weeks after the riot and seven days after the House impeached him.
That’s on top of the broader argument Trump and his lawyers have been making: The Constitution does not permit conviction of a president once they’ve left office because they cannot be removed from an office they no longer hold.
Democrats are seeking not to remove Trump but to disqualify him from holding federal office again, a step they cannot take unless he’s convicted first.
– Ledyard King
David Schoen, one of former President Donald Trump’s defense lawyers at his impeachment trial, slammed House managers Tuesday for “splicing” together videos of the Jan. 6 Capitol breach at the Senate trial.
The assertion was in response to a graphic 13-minute video Democrats showed earlier in the proceedings that chronicled the events of the insurrection.
Schoen said the Senate trial was for “pure, raw, misguided partisanship that makes them believe that playing to our worst instincts somehow is good.”
“They don’t need to show you movies to show you that the riot happened here. We will stipulate that it happened, and you know all about it,” he continued.
Minutes later, Schoen played a clip of several Democratic lawmakers saying years before they would vote to impeach Trump, edited together over dramatic music.
— Savannah Behrmann
‘Dad, I don’t want to come back’:Rep. Jamie Raskin, in tears at trial, recounts daughter’s fear during Capitol riot
Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump’s defense team in his first Senate trial, slammed Bruce Castor, Trump’s lead attorney, for his long-winded opening arguments.
During an interview on Newsmax, Dershowitz said of Castor: “There is no argument. I have no idea what he’s doing. I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying.”
Dershowitz, echoing Castor that the House managers had effective arguments, said he was confused why Castor “didn’t get up there and respond” to the legality arguments.
“Maybe he’ll bring it home, but right now, it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy,” he continued.
Dershowitz said Castor may have known the senators “wanted to be buttered up” but, “Boy, it’s not the kind of argument I would have made.”
— Savannah Behrmann
Donald Trump’s lead attorney began his attack on the constitutionality of the former president’s impeachment trial not on legal argument but on a political one, saying moving ahead means “impeachment will become the rule, not the rare exception.”
“The flood gates will open,” Bruce Castor told the Senate, noting that two of the nation’s four presidential impeachments have taken place in the last 13 months.
“The political pendulum will shift one day, and partisan impeachments will become commonplace,” he said. “This is supposed to be the ultimate safety valve, the last thing that happens, the most rare treatment. … After we are long done here and after there’s a shift in the political winds and a change in the makeup of (Congress), the pressure for those folks back home is going to be tremendous.”
While denouncing the violence at the Capitol by a pre-Trump mob as “repugnant in every sense of the word,” Castor also said Trump’s words are protected political speech that should not be blamed for the actions of others, namely the rioters.
“We can’t possibly be suggesting that we punish people for political speech in this country,” he said. And if people acted on those words “and they crossed the line, they should be locked up.”
— Ledyard King
Rep. Jamie Raskin choked up repeatedly Tuesday as he recalled assuring his daughter, Tabitha, and son-in-law, Hank, that it would be safe to watch the House count Electoral College votes on Jan. 6.
Raskin, D-Md., said the young adults watched the proceedings from the balcony above the chamber before returning to an office where they barricaded the door. While separated from Raskin, they sent desperate texts to loved ones while hiding beneath a table.
“They thought they were going to die,” Raskin said amid tears.
Raskin said he’ll never forget the haunting sound of a battering ram that rioters pounded against the House door. He recalled how a rioter mercilessly pummeled a police officer with an American flag pole. Other officers suffered brain damage, had their eyes gouged and one lost three fingers, Raskin said. Officer Brian Sicknick died from his injuries the next day.
Raskin gestured to the pin on his lapel identifying him as a member of the House and said lawmakers were removing them as they evacuated.
When he was later reunited with his 24-year-old daughter, Raskin apologized and said it would be safe the next time she visited. She told him she didn’t want to return.
‘Dad, I don’t want to come back’:Rep. Jamie Raskin, in tears at trial, recounts daughter’s fear during Capitol riot
“Senators, this cannot be the future of America,” said Raskin as he choked up. “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.”
— Bart Jansen
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., one of the lawmakers leading the prosecution against former President Donald Trump, responded to several arguments from the former president’s lawyers ahead of their presentation, arguing Democrats could impeach the president and that the impeachment trial was valid.
Trump’s lawyers had argued he was just a private citizen now and could not be impeached, but Cicilline showed a screenshot of a press release from Trump’s post-presidential office, telling lawmakers Trump was not a “randomly selected private citizen. He’s a former officer of the United States government.”
He also responded to arguments that the trial was invalid because the chief justicewas not presiding. The Constitution stipulates the chief justice presides over impeachment trials of presidents, but otherwise the Senate’s presiding officer – the vice president or its president pro tempore – oversees the trial. Cicilline noted, “Right now, Joseph R. Biden Jr. is 46th president of the United States. As a result, the requirement (in the Constitution) that the chief justice preside isn’t triggered.”
The Trump team’s arguments about the validity of the trial’s process “are not only wrong on their own terms, but they’re also completely irrelevant to the question of whether you should hold this trial,” Cicilline said.
— Nicholas Wu
Prosecutor says 1876 Belknap case provides precedent to hold Trump trial
Need proof that the Senate is obligated to try former President Donald Trump even though he’s now a private citizen? Democratic impeachment manager Joe Neguse, D-Co., said you need only go back 145 years to find the precedent with War Secretary William Belknap.
In 1876, the House impeached Belknap on five articles including “criminally disregarding his duty as Secretary of War and basely prostituting his high office to his lust for private gain.”
But as the House prepared to vote, Belknap raced to the White House and resigned to President Ulysses S. Grant. That didn’t stop the House vote or the Senate trial with 40 witnesses. While a majority of the Senate ultimately voted to convict Belknap, the votes fell short of the two-thirds required for conviction.
Regardless of Belknap’s acquittal, Neguse said Congress’ action nearly a century and a half ago clearly established the precedent that an official’s resignation or departure does not allow the Senate to avoid its legal responsibility to hold a trial.
To do so, Neguse said, would be “wrong and dangerous.”
“Presidents can’t claim insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened. And yet that is the rule President Trump ask you to adopt. I urge you – we urge you – to decline his request.”
— Ledyard King
Former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate opened with a chilling 13-minute video that chronicled the events on Jan. 6, from the president’s exhortation at a rally near the White House that his followers should go to the Capitol to the very attack on the Capital that ensued.
The video included protestors breaching the Capitol, shouting “Stop the Steal,” “Treason” and other rallying cries as they broke windows and pounded doors to get to the House and Senate chambers. Meanwhile, lawmakers were shown having to be escorted out as they were ceremonially tabulating the electoral votes that affirmed Joe Biden’s victory on Nov. 3.
At one point, the footage includes the very moment when a Capitol Police officer shot Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old woman who had joined the rioters trying to get into the House chamber.
Near the end, the short film has the president’s social media post that protestors should “go home with love and in peace.”
When the video ended, the Senate remained silent until House Prosecutor Jamie Raskin, D-Md, spoke.
“Senators, the president was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 13 for doing that. You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution? That is a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing.”
— Ledyard King
The U.S. Capitol looks a lot different for former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Inside the Senate chamber, every senator except for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19. The seats above the Senate, which are typically full of tourists, lawmakers’ spouses, and other guests, were empty except for two Democratic House members: Reps. Al Green of Texas and Bradley Sherman of California. The area is being kept open for members of the Senate, who are allowed to sit in the gallery hanging over the floor and in a room off the floor due to social distancing.
The pandemic has also limited the number of reporters allowed in certain areas to cover the proceedings. Stickers, each six feet apart, mark areas on the floor where reporters are allowed to stand. Only a limited number of journalists are being allowed into the chamber.
Intense security and other aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol remain on display. A large, 7-foot fence topped with barbed wire surrounds the Capitol building due to continued security threats. A second, wider fence surrounds the larger Capitol complex, blocking members of the public or protesters from visiting the area.
Each fence is guarded by a line of law enforcement officers and National Guard troops, who vet those seeking entrance. Many guardsmen are inside the building. One stopped to take a few photos as House managers walked over to the Senate before the trial commenced.
Several windows remain broken from the attack, including one on a door that was repeatedly bashed by protesters last month. Several aides on Tuesday before the proceedings started took photos of the damage and remarked that the remnants of the attack should remain on display as a reminder of the day.
— Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu
The Senate approved guidelines for how former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will operate, a schedule that could allow proceedings to wrap up early next week.
The resolution outlines this tentative schedule:
Tuesday: Four hours of debate followed by a vote on whether it’s constitutional to hold the trial.
Wednesday and Thursday: House impeachment managers will have 16 hours over two days to make their case.
Friday and Saturday: Trump’s lawyers will have 16 hours over two days to argue their case.
After the arguments, senators will have four hours to ask questions of the House impeachment managers and Trump’s counsel. Then either House managers or Trump’s team could make a request for witnesses, which could significantly prolong the trial. Only a simple majority is needed to call a witness.
If no witnesses are called, the trial could conclude early next week with two hours of closing statement for each side. The trial would then conclude with a final vote on whether to convict or acquit the former president.
— Christal Hayes
Rep. Jamie Raskin began oral arguments in the second Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump by assuring senators that he wouldn’t lecture them endlessly like a college professor.
Raskin, D-Md., a former 25-year constitutional scholar at American University, cited a line from W.H. Auden that “a professor is someone who speaks while other people are sleeping.”
“I know there are a lot of people who are dreading endless lectures about the Federalist papers,” Raskin said. “Please breathe easy.”
Raskin said the case from House Democrats will focus on the “cold, hard facts.” He argued that Trump’s defense team wanted to halt the trial without evidence by calling it unconstitutional.
“They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced,” Raskin said.
— Bart Jansen
House Democrats opened the second Senate impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump shortly after 1 p.m. EST, arguing the case is constitutional despite him having left office.
The debate opens a historic trial of the only president to be impeached twice and the only impeachment trial of a president who is no longer in office. The Senate is sitting as a jury to decide whether Trump incited the insurrection Jan. 6 at the Capitol that left five dead.
Three House Democrats serving as prosecutors, who are called managers, are presenting arguments Tuesday: Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Joe Neguse of Colorado and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.
The House managers and Trump’s defense team will divide up to four hours for arguments about whether the case is constitutional. The Senate will then vote on whether to dismiss the case.
The Senate is expected to uphold the trial as constitutional because senators already voted 55-45 to support the proceedings last month. But that vote also suggested Trump could be acquitted because a two-thirds majority is required for conviction and more than one-third of the chamber found the trial unconstitutional.
Trump’s defense team led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen has argued the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. They said the Senate has no jurisdiction over Trump as a private citizen.
But the House managers contend that logic is flawed because it would ignore misconduct at the end of any president’s term in office. The managers also say if Trump is convicted, he should be disqualified from future office.
— Bart Jansen
House Democrats replied Tuesday to Donald Trump’s written argument in his Senate impeachment trial by saying the former president “tries to shift the blame onto his supporters” for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and that he invokes “flawed legal theories.”
Trump’s defense team has argued the trial is unconstitutional because Trump already left office. The team led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen also argued that his speech to the mob before the Capitol violence was protected by the First Amendment.
But the House prosecutors, who are called managers, said the constitutional argument was discredited by leading scholars across the political spectrum.
“Because President Trump’s guilt is obvious, he seeks to evade responsibility for inciting the January 6 insurrection by arguing that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to convict officials after they leave office,” the lawmakers wrote in their 33-page reply.
House managers also argued the First Amendment doesn’t protect incitement of insurrection, which is what Trump is charged with under the article of impeachment. Five people died during the riot, including a police officer.
— Bart Jansen
The Senate impeachment trial is being televised nationally, but the defendant himself is planning to be out of sight.
Donald Trump will be at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., aides said, watching the proceedings on television and speaking on the phone with friends and possibly his lawyers.
It’s not known if a round of golf is in the offing.
Trump has not made public appearances since leaving office on Jan. 20. He has also not engaged on social media, having been de-platformed by Twitter two days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S Capitol by his supporters.
So he doesn’t plan to provide running commentary on the trial, but aides speaking on condition of anonymity about their communications strategy noted that many of his friends are already active on social media and cable television, denouncing the proceedings on his behalf.
The “Trump War Room” account, for example, tweeted out a clip from a Fox News interview of a major supporter, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.: “This is impeachment by reflex. It is impeachment in lieu of an actual agenda for the American people.”
— David Jackson
Senior aides to House Democrats said Tuesday they would provide new evidence in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged his colleagues who serve as jurors to review it carefully.
The aides didn’t describe the evidence. But Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters that the events were so serious with a mob of insurrectionists rampaging through the Capitol on Jan. 6, that senators must judge the evidence thoroughly to determine whether Trump incited them.
“The Senate has a solemn responsibility to try and hold Trump accountable for the most serious charge ever – ever – levied against a president,” Schumer said. “When you have such a serious charge, sweeping it under the rug will not bring unity, it will keep the sore open and the wounds open. You need truth and accountability.”
House prosecutors, who are called managers, plan to provide videos and other evidence during the trial over the charge that Trump incited the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But first, four hours of technical legal argument is scheduled Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST over whether the trial is constitutional.
Trump’s legal team, led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen, will argue Trump can’t be tried since he already left office. House managers are expected to say that the constitutional provision to disqualify convicted officials from holding future office would make no sense if an official could simply resign to avoid trial. Three of the nine impeachment managers will argue the constitutionality of the case: Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.; Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo.; and David Cicilline, D-R.I.
The House managers will be given two hours to argue their case and will be followed by two hours from Trump’s team. The Senate will vote after the arguments on whether to dismiss the case. The Senate is expected to uphold the constitutionality of the trial because it already voted to reject Trump’s argument in a 55-45 vote.
House managers haven’t signaled whether they would ask the Senate to call witnesses, a decision that is days away.
The aides spoke on condition of anonymity in order to describe how the trial would unfold.
— Bart Jansen
President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Wisconsin next week, making the state one of the first official stops of his presidency.
Biden will visit Milwaukee next Tuesday. Details of the trip are not yet available. Biden was last in Wisconsin in late October, just days before the November election, when he spoke to a small, socially distanced crowd at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. That was the last of three trips Biden made to the state in 2020. In September, he stopped at a foundry in Manitowoc and also visited Kenosha after the city was shaken by shootings and unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Wisconsin was one of the states that Biden flipped in his victory over former President Donald Trump, winning the state by about 20,000 votes — a margin similar to that of Trump’s surprise win in the state just four years before.
— Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, apologized for her Twitter feuds with Republicans and pledged that her role as an “impassioned advocate” would change if confirmed as White House budget chief.
Tanden, the president and CEO of the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, is considered one of Biden’s most contentious Cabinet picks despite her extensive experience in government. She’s caught heat for Twitter broadsides directed at Republicans over the last few years, particularly against senators who she’ll have to face during her confirmation
“Over the last few years, it’s been part of my role to be an impassioned advocate,” Tanden told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in her first confirmation hearing Tuesday.
In a departure from her prepared remarks, Tanden acknowledged concerns over her social media use and apologized for past Twitter attacks.
“I regret that language and take responsibility for it,” she said.
Tanden said she understood that the role of the “OMB Director calls for bipartisan action, as well as nonpartisan adherence to facts and evidence.”
— Courtney Subramanian
WASHINGTON – The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump begins Tuesday with a debate over whether the proceeding is constitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
The debate marks the beginning of a historic trial, not only because Trump is the first president to be impeached twice, but because he stands trial after he left office. The House impeached Trump nearly a month ago, charging him with inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Senators have the task of voting whether to acquit or convict Trump of the charge when the trial concludes.
Senate leaders set aside four hours Tuesday to hear both sides debate the constitutional argument raised by Trump and Republicans. The oral arguments begin at 1 p.m. EST. Trump’s lawyers, led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen, have called the trial unconstitutional and “political theater,” citing the fact Trump is private citizen and have asked that the trial be dismissed.
But the Senate has already rejected the argument that the trial is unconstitutional in a 55-45 vote. Congressional Democrats, hoping to convict Trump and bar him from holding future office, have cited precedents about impeachment trials of a Cabinet secretary and judges after they left office.
The big unknown in the trial is whether witnesses will be called, a decision still days away. If either side requests witnesses, the debate and vote would come after the arguments and four hours of questions from senators.
— Bart Jansen
Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, faces what could be a contentious confirmation hearing Tuesday after facing pushback from Republicans as well as progressives.
Tanden, the former head of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, is expected to be grilled by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Republican senators have expressed resistance to Tanden’s nomination because of her progressive positions and highly critical tweets, having taken aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Susan Collins, among others. She has since deleted some tweets, but after her nomination was announced, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, labeled her Biden’s “worst nominee so far.”
She’s also faced blowback from progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who in 2019 chided her in a letter saying she was “maligning” his staff and “belittling progressive ideas.”
Tanden also has a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, where Sanders is chairman. If confirmed by the full Senate, she will be the first woman of color and Asian American to lead the office.
— Nicholas Wu