Here's How Trump's Impeachment Trial Likely Will Play Out

Here's How Trump's Impeachment Trial Likely Will Play Out

America's Voice Admin
February 5, 2021

On February 9, a little more than a month after a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a bid to block Democrat Joe Biden's election victory, all 100 members of the U.S. Senate will meet in their chamber to begin the impeachment trial of the former president on a charge of inciting the rioting.  

The January 6 attack, which left five people dead and forced lawmakers meeting to certify Biden's win to either evacuate or hide in their offices, prompted the House of Representatives within a week to impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection."

That made Trump, a one-time New York real estate developer, the only American president to be impeached twice.  

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) leads fellow House impeachment managers as they walk in the U.S. Capitol
FILE - Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) leads fellow House impeachment managers as they walk in the U.S. Capitol to hand-carry an article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate for trial, Jan. 25, 2021.

The lead House manager, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, asked in a letter to Trump on Thursday that he testify under oath about his actions on January 6. Trump's two lead lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, swiftly rejected the request, calling it "a public relations stunt."  

Former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor heads back into courtroom  after a break in a pre-trail hearing for…
FILE - Attorney Bruce Castor heads back into the courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Feb. 2, 2016.

Raskin, who will head a team of nine House prosecutors during the trial, asked for Trump's testimony two days after Schoen and Castor filed a brief with the Senate, disputing the charges against the former president and questioning the legality of trying a former president no longer in office.  

Here is a primer on the trial:  

What is the charge against Trump?  

Trump faces a single charge of "incitement of insurrection" over his role in the January 6 riot. House Democrats say Trump's monthslong campaign of lies to discredit the results of an election he lost led his followers to attack the Capitol in order to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's Electoral College victory — the final step in the election process.  

Democrats say Trump instigated his supporters to attack the Capitol with a rousing speech near the White House shortly before the riot began and then watched on television as the insurrection unfolded, charges Trump's lawyers deny.  

By "inciting violence" against the government of the United States, they say, Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," which is an impeachable offense under the U.S. Constitution.  

How long will the trial last?  

In this image from video, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday,…
FILE - Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 25, 2020.

While neither side wants to see it drag on, it's unclear how long the trial will last. Democrats are aiming for a relatively short proceeding — maybe a week or two — because they are eager to turn their attention back to confirming Biden's nominees and passing his legislative agenda.  

It will be nothing like Trump's first impeachment trial, which ran for nearly three weeks from January 16 to February 5, 2020. Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware told reporters on Wednesday that the trial "is not something that should take months or weeks" but days.  

Who is the "judge"?  

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,…
FILE - Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 5, 2020.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the most senior Democrat and the Senate's president pro tempore, will preside over the trial. Under the U.S. Constitution, when a sitting president is on trial for impeachment, the chief justice of the United States is required to preside over the proceeding. But since Trump is no longer president, the Senate president pro tempore will take over the largely ceremonial role.  

Who are the "prosecutors"?  

Nine Democratic members of the House, selected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve as "House managers," will present the charges against Trump. They're all lawyers and among Pelosi's closest allies in the House. Raskin, the lead House manager who helped author the article of impeachment, is a progressive three-term congressman who previously served as a constitutional law professor for more than 25 years.  

Who are Trump's defense lawyers?  

Trump's defense team will be led by Schoen and Castor, both veteran lawyers. The pair came on board last week after Trump's first defense team quit amid a disagreement with the former president. During his first impeachment trial, Trump deployed a much bigger legal defense team, enlisting top White House and outside lawyers.  

Who are the "jurors"?  

The 100 members of the Senate will effectively serve as jurors throughout the trial and then will vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump. The senators will not be allowed to directly ask questions of both sides but instead can submit their questions to Leahy to read. It will require 67 votes — a two-thirds majority — to convict the ex-president. 

Will there be witnesses?  

Not likely. Trump has rejected a Democratic request to testify and the Democrats have not said whether they plan to call any other witnesses. There were no witnesses during the House impeachment hearings last month. That has led some Republicans to say there is no need for any during the Senate trial.  

What happens during the trial?  

The trial will get fully under way with opening statements by both sides likely presented over several days, followed by a question-and-answer period. Assuming the Senate adopts past practice, each side will be given equal time for their opening statements. During Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020, the House managers and Trump's lawyers were allotted 24 hours each.  

To link Trump to the Capitol attack, the Democrats are expected to offer an emotionally charged presentation complete with cellphone videos showing Trump whipping his supporters into a frenzy before they ransacked and vandalized the Capitol and caused five deaths, including that of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. One video, posted on the social media site Parler, shows Trump fans reacting emotionally as Trump urges them to "fight like hell." 

Trump lawyer Schoen said last week "the country doesn't need to watch videos of riots and unrest."  

What are the odds of a conviction?  

Very slim. At least 17 Republicans would have to join with all 50 Democrats to convict Trump on the sole article of impeachment. But 45 of the 50 Senate Republicans voted last week to challenge the constitutionality of the trial, all but assuring that Trump will be acquitted.  

What happens if Trump is not convicted?  

The Democrats could pass a resolution to "censure" Trump or invoke a section of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to try and have him disqualified from holding office in the future.  
 

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