Crime & Justice

Trump’s impeachment trial for inciting Capitol attack begins

Washington, Feb 9 (efe-epa).- Former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial got under way on Tuesday in a deeply divided US Senate, where it will be difficult to convict him for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol building by a violent mob of his followers.

The 100 senators will act as jurors in the trial and will be tasked with evaluating the single impeachment charge of “inciting to insurrection” filed against Trump by Democrats for urging the mob to march on the Capitol, a tumultuous attack that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten to death by the insurrectionists.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy inaugurated the proceedings and will preside over the impeachment trial.

The session began with a vote on the rules that will govern the proceedings, and they were approved by an 89-11 margin.

Prior to that vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had urged GOP senators to pay “very real attention to the evidence here because it’s very, very serious.”

“The Senate has a solemn responsibility to try and hold Donald Trump accountable for the most serious charges ever, ever levied against a president,” he said, calling the impeachment proceedings the constitutional duty of the legislators.

After the rules vote, senators began a four-hour debate on the constitutionality of the proceedings, with conservatives contending that the trial is unconstitutional since Trump is already out of office but Democrats asserting that it is perfectly within the framework of the Constitution.

Numerous constitutional experts have expressed the opinion that the trial is legitimate even if it cannot result in Trump’s removal from office – given that he is already an ex-president – because it evaluates deeds, facts and events that occurred when he still occupied the White House.

The Democratic managers of the impeachment argued in a document presented on Monday and will argue at the actual trial that there is no “January exception” allowing presidents to abuse their office during their last few days in power without expecting to face the consequences of such actions.

Some Republicans have claimed that Trump should not be prosecuted for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot because he was due to leave office within two weeks anyway.

Debate on the constitutionality of the proceedings is a life preserver for those Republicans who are most uncomfortable with Trump but who do not dare to completely turn their backs on him, and in effect they can use a vote against holding the trial as proof that they did not want to convict him, regardless of other votes that they might cast during the course of the trial.

Once the Senate – as expected – decides that the process is constitutional, a decision that requires only a simple majority, the trial will resume on Wednesday at noon, when arguments by the prosecutors and Trump’s defense will commence and theoretically senators will then have to evaluate and decide on the merit of those arguments rather than whether the trial is valid or not.

It is expected that the trial will move forward quickly and possibly be finalized by next week, although it is improbable that it will end with Trump being convicted given that two-thirds of the senators, or 67 votes in all, must vote to convict the ex-president, and Democrats control only 50 seats in the upper chamber.

The proceedings, nevertheless, will go down in history for two reasons, namely because Trump is the first US president to face two impeachment trials – the first one ending in his acquittal in February 2020 for trying to put political pressure on Ukraine – and because never before has a US president been impeached when he was no longer in office.

The charge against Trump stems from his actions on Jan. 6, when he egged on a huge crowd of his supporters to march on the Capitol, where lawmakers from both chambers were gathered to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, a loss that Trump has never acknowledged, claiming – without any evidence – that only massive vote fraud by the Democrats had denied him reelection.

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