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Full coverage: Senate vote backs Trump impeachment trial as constitutional

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Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington
(Associated Press)

Trump is the first president to face charges after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Former President Trump’s Senate trial began today, weeks after the House voted to impeach him on a single article of inciting insurrection after a mob overran the U.S. Capitol.

The trial began with graphic video of the Capitol riot and proceeded with hours of debate. The Senate voted to proceed with the second impeachment trial, deeming it constitutional by a vote of 56-44. Four days of arguments will follow. Each side will be given two days to lay out its arguments, beginning Wednesday with House prosecutors.

Everything you need to know | Full coverage

Bill Cassidy among 6 GOP senators who voted to proceed

The impeachment managers picked up one additional vote from Republicans to consider a second impeachment trial against Donald Trump: Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. Two weeks ago, he voted in favor of an effort to dismiss, but on Tuesday he voted with Democrats to move forward. Cassidy joined Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah in dismissing the Trump team’s claims.

Cassidy told reporters earlier that the impeachment managers had “strong arguments,” and it was a “very good opening.”

“I have always said I was approaching this with an open mind,” Cassidy said.

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Senate votes that Trump impeachment trial is constitutional

The Senate voted Tuesday that the Constitution allows for an impeachment trial against former President Trump for actions he committed while in office, with the backing of all Democrats, two independents and six of the chamber’s 50 Republicans.

The vote, which was expected, clears the path for a week-long proceeding that will kick off tomorrow as with House impeachment managers presenting their case.

House Democrats argued the Constitution gives the Senate authority to hold the trial of a former president because he is being tried for crimes allegedly committed while in office.

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Trump lawyer says trial will tear the U.S. apart

A lawyer for Donald Trump is arguing that the former president’s impeachment trial should be dismissed, both because it is unconstitutional and because it will “tear this country apart.”

David Schoen said Tuesday that Democrats are fueled by a “hatred” of Trump and fear that they will lose power. He says if the trial moves forward, it will make “everyone” look bad and other countries that wish the U.S. harm will watch with “glee.”

Trump was impeached on a count of incitement of insurrection over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by a mob of his supporters. Both sides were debating the trial’s constitutionality Tuesday, and the debate will be followed by a vote to dismiss the case, which is expected to fail.

Trump’s team is arguing that the trial is not constitutional because Trump is out of office. Democrats, citing legal scholars and precedent from a secretary of war’s 1876 impeachment, have detailed both the historical precedent and the violence of the rioting to argue that it is constitutional.

Trump was impeached one week before he left office and one week after he told his supporters to “fight like hell” before they laid siege to the Capitol. The rioting resulted in five deaths.

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The impeachment history that says Trump can be tried

House prosecutors have a key piece of impeachment history on their side when they argue senators can try a former official: The Senate has done it before.

That trial, which lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin referred to in his opening speech, involved corruption allegations against William Belknap, secretary of war under President Grant.

Belknap, known for his lavish lifestyle, took bribes as part of a scheme involving a lucrative Army trading post at Ft. Sill, in what is now Oklahoma. When he discovered, early in 1876, that his corruption had been discovered and that he was about to be impeached, he rushed to the White House to hand his resignation to Grant, hoping to forestall further proceedings.

Belknap resigned at 10:20 a.m. on March 2, 1876. A few hours later, the House committee investigating him voted unanimously to recommend his impeachment. The full House quickly followed suit.

The main defense Belknap offered is the same one that Trump has put forward — as a former official, he believed he was immune to trial by the Senate.

That quickly became the main topic of Senate debate. On April 28, the Senate formally took up the question of “whether W. W. Belknap, the respondent, is amenable to trial by impeachment for acts done as Secretary of War, notwithstanding his resignation of said office.”

On May 29, by 37-29, the Senate voted that it had jurisdiction, setting the precedent that the Senate could try a former official.

That vote, however, also set the stage for Belknap’s ultimate acquittal. Those 29 senators on Belknap’s side were not enough to prevent a trial, but they were enough to block his conviction, which requires a two-thirds vote. That’s another precedent the current impeachment trial may follow.

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Raskin emotionally recalls terror of Jan. 6

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) wrapped up his team’s presentation Tuesday afternoon with a poignant, heart-wrenching reminder that the Jan. 6 siege was “personal.”

He recalled that on that day, he took his daughter Tabitha and son-in-law with him to the Capitol to see democracy in action: the electoral college certification of the Nov. 3 election of President Biden.

It was the day after the family buried Raskin’s middle child, his only son, who committed suicide after struggling with depression.

Instead of a lesson in civics, however, as Raskin was on the House floor, and his family in his office, a pro-Trump mob stormed the building. He recalled the “haunting” pounding of the chamber doors by what sounded like a battering ram; it was the fists of the enraged mob.

All around him, he said, lawmakers and staffers were phoning relatives to say goodbye; members of Congress were removing their congressional pins to evade being identified. Raskin said he could not reach his children, who were in his office and sending what they believed might be their final text messages and “whispered phone calls” to bid farewell to their already bereaved family.

“They thought they were going to die,” Raskin said.

Senators sat in rapt attention as Raskin recounted his most searing memories of the day.

His voice wavered when he remembered his son’s burial. But generally he proceeded steadily, until he reported a final exchange with his daughter, who was eventually rescued from the congressman’s office.

“I promised her that it would not be like this the next time I brought her back to the Capitol. She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.’

“That one hit me the hardest,” he said.

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‘History does not support the January exception,’ Raskin argues

In quoting Alexander Hamilton in support for the constitutionality of the Senate trying a former president, House lead prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) sought to undercut a key argument by Trump’s attorneys that “the founders knowingly did not extend the power of impeachment to former officials.”

Raskin quoted Hamilton saying, “political opportunists who begin as demagogues and end as tyrants,” to make the point that the nation’s founders did not intend to give a pass to impeachable behavior in the final month of a president’s term.

“History does not support the January exception in any way, so why would we invent one for the future,” Raskin said in his closing remarks.

Perhaps even more detrimental to Trump’s legal argument was the list of current conservative scholars named by Raskin and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) who have rejected the notion that the Senate did not have authority to impeach a former president.

The scholars cited included those from the Federalist Society, a judge appointed by President George W. Bush, and, most pointedly, by Chuck Cooper, a well-known conservative who was a former advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Cooper, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this week, wrote that “it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”

Neguse said that, in fact, the Senate could have impeached and tried President Nixon even after he resigned and left office after the Watergate scandal.

“Impeachment exists to protect American people from officials who abuse their power,” Neguse said. “It exists for a case just like this one.”

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Lead prosecutor recalls seeing his daughter after the riot

I promised her that it would not be like this the next time I brought her back to the Capitol. She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.’ … That one hit me the hardest.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, lead Trump trial prosecutor

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Democrats list reasons trial is constitutional

Democrats are using various arguments to make their case for why the impeachment trial of former President Trump is constitutional.

During arguments Tuesday, they said there is historical precedent for former officials to be tried before the Senate. They said the framers of the Constitution would not have intended for presidents to be let off the hook for conduct committed in their final weeks in office. And they say the Senate should not give in to Trump’s efforts to deprive them of the power to try the president.

The impeachment managers are also invoking the public statements of leading conservative legal scholars who in recent days have come forward to support the idea that the trial is constitutional and that the Senate has jurisdiction.

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Here’s the article by the professor who says Trump’s lawyers misrepresented what he wrote

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Biden strenuously ignores Trump’s impeachment trial: ‘I have a job’

President Biden met Tuesday afternoon with a group of business leaders, seeking feedback on his coronavirus relief proposal — and to demonstrate that his attention was not on the opening arguments of his predecessor’s impeachment trial.

Biden, who along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with four Fortune 500 executives and the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters that watching the historic events underway on the Senate floor would amount to a distraction from more pressing matters.

“I have a job,” Biden told reporters at the outset of the Oval Office meeting. “We have already lost over 450,000 people and we could lose a whole lot more if we don’t act and act decisively. A lot of people, as I have said before, children are going to bed hungry. A lot of families are food insecure. They are in trouble. That’s my job.

“The Senate has their job and they are about to begin it and I am sure they are going to conduct themselves well. That’s all I am going to say about impeachment.”

Biden, with the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase, WalMart, Gap and Lowes seated beside him on couches, did tell reporters that he supports House Democrats current proposal to cap direct relief payments to Americans at those earning $75,000 a year.

Moments earlier during her daily appearance in the briefing room, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was equally disciplined in pushing the administration’s message that it remains focused on the coronavirus relief package as negotiations rev up in the House. Asked about the constitutionality of trying a former president and about Trump’s role in inciting the violent mob that overtook the Capitol on Jan. 6, Psaki asserted that those were concerns of pundits and that Biden, with the nation in crisis, was busy with other matters.

“Joe Biden is the president. He’s not a pundit,” she said. “He’s not going to opine on the back and forth arguments in the Senate, nor is he watching them.”

Beyond focusing on House negotiations on the details of the American Rescue Plan, Biden has scheduled efforts to counter-program Trump’s impeachment trial. He will visit the Pentagon on Wednesday to address military personnel and, specifically, call attention to newly-installed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the first African-American to hold that post.

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Watch: Trump’s second trial opens with jarring video of siege

Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial has opened with dramatic video that includes his words to rioters who descended on the U.S. Capitol and the chaos and violence that ensued.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager presenting the case against Trump, introduced the more than 10-minute-long video timeline of the day. It began with Trump’s speech at a Jan. 6 rally by the White House in which he tells the crowd, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” and it included the crowd marching to the building. That video was juxtaposed with what was happening inside the building as lawmakers were preparing to certify Joe Biden’s victory.

The video included some of the more well-known scenes from the day: Trump saying, “We will stop the steal,” Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman confronting the insurrectionists and leading them away from Senate chambers, and graphic video of another officer being crushed between two doors.

In other parts, the video focused on jarring images of rioters confronting police: yelling epithets, throwing objects and pushing past barricades and outnumbered Capitol Police.

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House prosecutor: ‘Trump may not know a lot about the Framers — but they certainly knew a lot about him’

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Man who wore horns at riot apologies for storming Capitol

An Arizona man who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns now says he regrets storming the building, apologized for causing fear in others and expressed disappointment with former President Trump.

In a statement released late Tuesday through his attorney, Jacob Chansley said he has re-evaluated his life since being jailed for more than a month on charges stemming from the riot and now realizes he shouldn’t have entered the Capitol building. Chansley, who previously said Trump inspired him to be in Washington on Jan. 6, said Trump “let a lot of peaceful people down.”

Chansley said he’s coming to terms with the events leading up to the riot and asked people to “be patient with me and other peaceful people who, like me, are having a very difficult time piecing together all that happened to us, around us, and by us. We are good people who care deeply about our country.”

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Prosecutors kick off presentations with Capitol riot video

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Curtain rises on 2nd Trump impeachment trial

The history-making impeachment trial of former President Trump kicked off Tuesday in the Senate with feisty arguments expected over whether the proceedings are constitutional.

Trump’s lawyers are contending that the Constitution does not allow for a former president to undergo impeachment proceedings. The Democratic impeachment managers maintain, and most legal scholars agree, that if the alleged crimes are committed while the president is in office, he can be tried after stepping down.

A president “who trashes democracy on his way out” must be held accountable, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the trial.

House managers filed through the ornate halls into the Senate chamber, sites of the deadly Jan. 6 siege that Trump stands accused of inciting.

Senators followed. All were wearing masks, as is required inside the Capitol, and a limited amount of social distancing was achieved with senators spacing themselves out.

Security was tight around the building, with barriers that were erected for President Biden’s inauguration still in place.

The question of the trial’s constitutionality has already been voted on. Last month, five Republicans joined Democrats to judge the trial valid. Still, the overwhelming opposition from the majority of the GOP lawmakers makes conviction of Trump unlikely.

Trump is the first president to be impeached twice, and the only one to be prosecuted after leaving office. He was impeached by the House last month on the single charge of having incited insurrection in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

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In final pre-trial brief, Democrats say Trump team trying to shift blame for riot

House Democrats prosecuting the impeachment case against Donald Trump say in a final pre-trial brief the former president’s lawyers are trying to “shift the blame onto his supporters” as they argue he’s not to blame for the Capitol insurrection.

The Democrats say the lawyers’ argument that Trump did not incite the Jan. 6 riot ignores Trump’s earlier false statements that there was widespread fraud in the election and his attempts to rally his supporters.

Trump’s team says he was protected by freedom of speech when he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat. It says Trump was using “fight” as a general term, not a direction to be violent.

Democrats say the Republican former president “knew that many of his supporters, agitated by his barrage of lies about a stolen election, were prone to violence.”

The Democrats prosecuting the case this week plan to show videos of the riot and tell graphic and personal stories of the rioting, in which five people died.

Trump’s lawyers say they also will have video.

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Watch live: Trump’s impeachment trial

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Will there be any witnesses?

It appears unlikely, for now, that witnesses will be called in Trump’s impeachment trial, though that could change as the trial proceeds. Trump himself has declined a request from the impeachment managers to testify.

Although Democrats argued vociferously for witnesses in the last impeachment trial, they were not allowed to call them after the GOP-controlled Senate voted against doing so. This time, Democrats feel they don’t need witnesses because they can rely on the graphic images of the insurrection that played out on live television. They also argue that the senators were witnesses themselves.

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How long will the trial last?

Trump’s trial will likely last more than a week. The agreement between Senate leaders provides for up to 16 hours for both prosecutors and the defense to make their arguments, starting Wednesday, with no more than eight hours of arguments per day. Later, there will be time for senators to ask questions, and there could be additional procedural votes.

Under the agreement, the trial will open Tuesday with four hours of debate on whether the trial is constitutional. The Senate will then vote on whether to dismiss the charge against Trump. If that vote fails, as expected, the House managers will begin their arguments Wednesday and continue into Thursday.

Trump’s lawyers are likely to begin their arguments Friday and finish Saturday. That almost certainly means a final vote on Trump’s conviction won’t happen until next week.

Trump’s first impeachment trial, in which he was acquitted on charges that he abused power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate now-President Joe Biden, lasted almost three weeks. But this one is expected to be shorter, as the case is less complicated and the senators know many of the details already, having been in the Capitol during the insurrection.

And although the Democrats want to ensure they have enough time to make their case, they do not want to tie up the Senate for long. The Senate cannot confirm Biden’s Cabinet nominees and move forward with their legislative priorities, such as COVID-19 relief, until the trial is complete.

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How will Trump’s Senate trial work?

The way an impeachment effort works, as laid out by the Constitution, is the House votes to impeach and the Senate then holds a trial on the charge or charges. Two-thirds of senators present can convict.

The House appointed nine impeachment managers, who will present the case against Trump on the Senate floor. Trump’s defense team will have equal time to argue against conviction.

The chief justice of the United States normally presides over the trial of a president, but because Trump has left office, the presiding officer will be Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is the ceremonial head of the Senate as the longest-serving member of the majority party.

Once the senators reach a final vote on the impeachment charge — this time there is just one, incitement of insurrection — each lawmaker will stand up and cast their vote: guilty or not guilty.

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House impeachment managers to introduce new evidence during the Senate trial

House impeachment managers plan to introduce evidence during the Senate trial that has not yet been released publicly, Democratic aides working on the trial said Tuesday.

They plan to make extensive use of the video taken during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol at the heart of the case.

“We plan to fully utilize all the evidence available in all the forms, including evidence that nobody has seen before,” said an aide.

The aides refused to share further details.

While Tuesday’s presentation will focus on the constitutional question of whether the Senate can hold a trial of a person who is now out of office, House managers will change their strategy as they present the heart of their case Wednesday and Thursday.

“This presentation will not be like a constitutional convention,” the aide said. “It will be more like a violent crime, criminal prosecution because that is what it is.”

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Trump impeachment lawyers blast ‘brazen political act’ as Senate lays out trial agenda

Lawyers for former President Trump criticized the impeachment case against him as “political theater” in their final brief before the beginning of the Senate trial Tuesday.

In the 78-page brief filed Monday, Trump’s lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor argued that the case is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office, and therefore, it must be dismissed.

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Read Trump’s impeachment defense memo

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Read the brief from the impeachment managers

House managers’ initial brief in the 2021 Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump

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Senate begins Trump impeachment trial in a divided nation

Less than five weeks after his riotous supporters stormed the Capitol, Donald Trump is set to go on trial a second time in the Senate — an impeachment proceeding that will give the public the fullest accounting so far of the former president’s role in the attack but almost surely not resolve a divided nation’s view of his legacy.

The split remains stark nationally and in California, where a new poll finds that more than 9 in 10 Democrats, but fewer than 2 in 10 Republicans, say they believe Trump was a major contributor to the insurrection.

Only 11% of California Republicans favor a Senate conviction of Trump, compared with 92% of the state’s Democrats, according to the poll released Monday by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

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