The House impeachment managers delivered one article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday evening, formally marking the start of the second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump, though the trial itself will not begin until the week of February 8.
The impeachment managers hand-delivered the article by walking it through Statuary Hall and the Capitol Rotunda, as is customary, and head impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) read the article aloud on the Senate floor.
The impeachment article, which the House passed January 13, charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” essentially blaming Trump for spurring the deadly riot that occurred at the U.S. Capitol following a rally he held on January 6 in protest of the presidential election results.
Trump will now have two weeks to issue a pre-trial brief before the start of the trial, which could begin as early as February 9, as negotiated by Senate leaders prior to receiving the article.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was adamant about granting Trump time to prepare for the trial, citing the “unprecedented speed of the House’s process.” The House passed the impeachment article just one week after the incident in question and just one week before Trump was set to leave office.
“At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency,” McConnell said in a statement last week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced Friday that the Senate had “made good progress in our efforts to determine the timing and structure of the impeachment trial” and said that the two-week window allows time for the Senate to continue its focus on cabinet hearings and the next coronavirus relief bill.
While McConnell has remained silent on how he plans to vote in the trial, Schumer has already openly said he believes Trump should be convicted:
What Donald Trump did is despicable.
And he should be convicted at his Senate trial. pic.twitter.com/ska9E9Cv22
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 18, 2021
“What Donald Trump did is the most despicable action any president has ever taken, and he should be convicted at this trial,” Schumer said, adding that he also plans to hold a second vote, if Trump is convicted, to remove his ability to run for future office. “I know we want to heal, but when something this awful happens, to just push it off will not heal,” Schumer said.
Convicting Trump requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, meaning 17 Republicans, in addition to all Democrats and both independents, would need to vote in favor of convicting him. A second vote to prevent him from running for office would only require a simple majority, or 51 votes.
Some Senate Republicans, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), have argued that the impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional. Graham stated after the article was passed that the text of the Constitution makes “manifestly clear that the Congress is without the constitutional power to impeach a president, once he has left office.” Cotton, likewise, stated that “the Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office—not an inquest against private citizens.”
Schumer has rejected this line of argument, saying Friday that it has been “roundly repudiated, debunked by hundreds of constitutional scholars, left, right, and center, and defies basic common sense.”
As Republicans call into question the legalities of the trial, reports emerged Monday that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senate president pro tempore, will preside over the impeachment trial in lieu of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts because the trial does not involve a sitting president. Roberts has not commented on the matter.
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