Here’s what to expect in Trump’s second impeachment trial

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  • Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial begins Tuesday.
  • Strong GOP support in the Senate for the former president means he likely won’t get convicted.
  • There are other key differences this time around compared to Trump’s first impeachment.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is set to kick off on Tuesday.

Trump is the only president to have been impeached twice by the House of Representatives. He was previously impeached on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in 2019 over his efforts to strongarm the Ukrainian government into launching bogus political investigations while withholding military aid. The then-Republican controlled Senate acquitted him following a weeks-long trial.

Here’s what to expect this time around:

What was Trump impeached for?

The House impeached Trump on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” related to the deadly Capitol siege on January 6, during which thousands of Trump supporters converged on the US Capitol to try to stop Congress from finalising Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

The insurrection came after Trump spent months peddling lies about the election and made baseless claims of widespread voter and election-rigging. The allegations had no merit; the Trump campaign and Republican officials filed dozens of lawsuits challenging the election results in battleground states he lost and almost all of them were rejected or tossed out.

Still, the then-president called on his supporters to attend a “Save America” rally on January 6, shortly before Congress convened to formalise Biden’s victory. At the rally, Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop the electoral process.

The single article of impeachment against Trump accuses him of having “wilfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol.” It went on to say that Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government” and “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government.”

Who’s representing each side?

Trump is being represented by two defence lawyers: Bruce Castor and David Schoen.

Schoen has a long history of working on civil-rights and public interest cases, The New York Times reported. And Castor is a former district attorney from Montgomery County in Pennsylvania who made headlines for declining to charge the disgraced former comedian Bill Cosby in 2005 after Andrea Costand accused him of drugging and assaulting her.

Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 and sentenced to ten years in prison after more than 60 women accused him of various degrees of rape and sexual assault.

On the other side, nine House lawmakers are the “impeachment managers” who will prosecute the case against Trump in his Senate trial. Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin is the lead manager and he’ll be flanked by Reps. Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean, and Joe Neguse.

What legal arguments is each side making?

Trump’s defence lawyers argued that it’s unconstitutional to eve hold an impeachment trial given that Trump is no longer in office and therefore cannot be convicted and removed, and subsequently barred from holding public office again.

They also said his speech at the January 6 rally preceding the violent insurrection is protected under the First Amendment, and that there is “insufficient evidence” to prove his claims about the election were false.

The Trump legal team laid out their arguments in a pre-trial brief released Monday.

The House managers argued that “there is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution,” adding that “a president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last.”

Democrats are also expected to juxtapose Trump’s rhetoric from the rally with footage from the siege.

The Trump brief includes a section defending his remarks as non-violent, trying to dismiss much of the evidence cited by the House managers as “hearsay through the media.” Castor has also gone on Fox News to say he will show clips of Democrats using inflammatory rhetoric.

What’s the timeline for the trial?

The House managers are aiming to keep this trial relatively short and sweet compared to Trump’s first impeachment trial, which lasted roughly three weeks and was criticised by some as being repetitive. This time, House prosecutors plan to rely heavily on video evidence taken leading up to and during the Capitol siege, and they’re prepared to conclude their arguments in as little as a week, The New York Times reported.

House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a deal early Monday for the trial schedule. Here’s a rough timeline, according to CNN:

  • Tuesday, February 9: The Senate will debate the constitutionality of the impeachment trial for up to four hours and vote at a simple majority threshold. This will be the same as the measure Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul forced last month, in which 45 Republican senators voted to declare Trump’s second impeachment trial unconstitutional, all but guaranteeing his acquittal.
  • Wednesday at noon: Each side will get up to 16 hours to make their presentations.
  • There will be a debate and a vote on whether to call witnesses, at the request of the House managers.
  • Initially, one of Trump’s attorneys requested the Sabbath (Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown). The Senate had obliged and the trial is not scheduled from Friday at 5 p.m. to the afternoon of Sunday, February 14.
  • On Monday evening, the attorney David Schoen wrote a letter to Schumer and McConnell withdrawing his request, saying that he would not participate during the Sabbath, but that the trial should continue.
  • It’s unclear if the trial will continue on Friday night and Saturday due to this change in the request.

Are there any differences between this trial and Trump’s first impeachment?

Aside from the charges, the main differences this time around centre on the constitutionality of the proceedings and the mechanics of the trial itself.

According to the US Constitution, the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over a president’s impeachment trial. But there’s no playbook on who presides over the trial of a former president. For Trump’s second impeachment trial, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is the president pro tempore of the Senate — the longest serving Democrat in the chamber — will preside.

In terms of the constitutionality of even holding a trial, several Republicans have argued against doing so. But as NBC News reported, there is precedent for impeaching and trying to remove someone who previously held federal office.

Akhil Reed Amar, a professor at Yale Law School, also dismissed the GOP’s argument, telling NPR, “That makes no sense at all. You want to give someone a get-out-of-jail free card at the end of the administration so they can do anything they like and be immune from the high court of impeachment?”

What are Trump’s chances of being convicted?

Pretty slim. Two-thirds of the Senate needs to vote to convict the former president, which is virtually impossible given that every Republican but five voted to declare the trial unconstitutional before it even began. Democrats currently hold a bare majority in the Senate — 50 seats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote — which means at least 17 Republicans would need to break ranks in order to reach the two-thirds threshold.