Trump is first former US president to face impeachment trial and the only president to be impeached twice.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s coverage of the impeachment trial. This is Joseph Stepansky and William Roberts.
While House Democratic impeachment managers’ opening video juxtaposing Trump’s speech leading up to the US Capitol riot, followed by images of the violence, was their “strongest” point, it is expected they will shift their argument as the trial continues, Yahoo chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff told Al Jazeera.
“The House managers made their strongest, strongest points with that video of the events of January 6. But I think we can expect them to spend a lot more time on the run-up to January 6: How Trump pushed what is now widely considered the ‘big lie’ of election fraud,” said Isikoff.
“The House managers will focus more on that to put the events of January 6 into this broader context of Trump refusing to accept the results of a democratic election,” he said.
The US Senate has ruled it has authority under the US Constitution to conduct an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Trump’s lawyers had argued that the Constitution does not provide for impeachment of a former president. The Senate voted 56-44 that the trial is constitutional as some Republicans joined most Democrats in rejecting Trump’s argument.
Trump lawyer Schoen called for the impeachment article to be dismissed because of a “total lack of due process” for the former president
Schoen said the House should have allowed then-President Trump to present a defence, and answer the charges, and that now as a private citizen, the senate can not try him.
“To impeach the president of the United States, without any semblance of due process at every step along the way, puts the office of the president of the United States at risk, every single day,” he said.
In a forceful presentation, Trump lawyer David Schoen accused Democrats of “abusing the impeachment power for political gain.”
Schoen decried the impeachment trial as Democrats “chance” to “eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene”.
He added that Democrats sought to “disenfranchise 74 million plus American voters and those who dare to share their political beliefs and vision of America”.
He said House managers presented “unsupportable constitutional theory and tortured reading of the text”, and said he would show that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to hold an impeachment trial of a former president.
He also renewed an argument used widely in Trump’s first impeachment trial, that Democrats had sought to impeach Trump since he won the election.
Trump lawyer Castor said during his opening remarks that Trump had lost the 2020 election, a fact the former president himself has refused to acknowledge.
In opening remarks Tuesday, lawyer Bruce Castor said: “The American people are smart enough to pick a new administration if they don’t like the old one. And they just did.”
Later, Castor referred to Trump, saying: “He was removed by the voters.”
Trump has repeatedly disputed the results of the election, falsely claiming he won in a “landside”. While he eventually acknowledged a new administration would take office, he has not, to date, admitted that he lost.
Trump defence lawyer Castor, in meandering statements to the Senate, suggested that Democrats want to convict Trump only to prevent him from running in 20204.
“We are really here because the majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future,” he said.
“That’s why they have to get over the jurisdictional hurdle, which they can’t get over…in order to get to the part of the constitution that allows removal,” he said, referring to the constitutional question of whether a former president can face an impeachment trial.
“Is that what the fear is, is the fear that the people in 2024, in fact, will want to change, and will want to go back to Donald Trump, and not the current occupant of the White House, President Biden,” he said.
Trump lawyer Castor, in a lengthy and winding opening argument, warned that allowing the trial to go ahead creates a “slipper slope”.
“The political pendulum will shift one day, when this chamber and the chamber across the way will change. One day, and partisan impeachments will become commonplace.”
“So the slippery slope principle will have taken hold, if we continue to go forward with what is happening today and scheduled to happen later this week.”
Bruce Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney who is representing Trump in the impeachment trial, sought to distance the defence from the violence on January 6.
“You’ll never hear anybody representing for President Trump say anything at all other than what happened on January 6,” he said.
“And the storming breaching of the Capitol should be denounced in the most vigorous terms, nor that those persons responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent that our laws allow.”
The defence is set to argue that it is unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president and that Trump’s words and actions were protected by freedom of speech.
LIVE: Former US President Trump's lawyers speak on the first day of his 2nd impeachment trial as the Senate hears arguments about whether he is guilty of inciting last month’s Capitol riot. Trump's legal team rejects the allegation: https://t.co/lc90U9fT9B https://t.co/LJyoKW1XHU
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) February 9, 2021
Senators, who essentially serve as jurors during this trial, will soon take an oath of impartiality, although “that’s something of an empty pledge” as many have already made up their minds, former US deputy attorney general Harry Litman told Al Jazeera.
Despite that fact, “there are right and wrong answers here, and I think the House mangers laid out a very compelling case against the constitutional challenge, and senators who ignore that case and ignore the vote that will be coming at the end of the day are not really being true to their oaths,” Litman added.
Lead House impeachment manager Raskin said the US Capitol breach was “personal” for legislators and others present, noting his 24-year-old daughter and her husband were in a colleague’s office at the time.
“The kids were under the desk,” he said, “facing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes. They thought they were going to die.”
Raskin said his daughter had accompanied him to the Capitol for the certification of the election results because it came a day after they buried his 25-year-old son, who had committed suicide on New Year’s Eve.
“We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilising mob violence against our government and our institutions, because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States, much less, can we create a new January exception in our precious beloved Constitution, the prior generations have died for and fought for,” he said, becoming emotional.
House impeachment manager Cicilline said Trump was “not impeached because of the words he used viewed in isolation, without context or beyond the pale.”
“Plenty of other politicians have used strong language,” he said.
“Donald J Trump was president of the United States. He sought to overturn a presidential election that had been upheld by every single court to consider it,” he said.
“He spent months, insisting to his base that the only way you could lose was a dangerous wide-ranging conspiracy against them in America itself,” he said.
House manager David Cicilline, during arguments on Tuesday, said “impeachment is not merely about removing someone from office.”
“Fundamentally impeachment exists to protect our constitutional system to keep each of us safe to uphold our freedom to safeguard our democracy,” he said.
“It achieves that by deterring abuse of the extraordinary power that we entrust to our presidents in the very first day in office to the very last day,” he added. “It also ensures accountability for presidents who harm us or our government.”
Allowing Trump to go unpunished would invite “further abuse of power” and signal “the Congress of the United States is unable or unwilling to respond to insurrection incited by the President.”
House impeachment manager Joe Neguse has said Trump’s defence is asking to be able to ‘walk away like nothing happened’
“Presidents, can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened. And yet, that is the rule that President Trump asks you to adopt.”
Neguse urged the Senate to allow him and other House impeachment managers to try the case.
House impeachment manager Joe Neguse said the constitution gives the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments”.
He added: “Based on President Trump’s argument one would think that language includes caveats exceptions.”
“But it doesn’t. It doesn’t say impeachment of current civil officers. It doesn’t say impeachment of those still in office.”
“The framers didn’t mince words,” he said.
Jamie Raskin, the lead house impeachment manager in refuting Republican’s claim that the impeachment of Trump is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office said that is not what the framers of the constitution intended.
“Every single impeachment of a government official that occurred during the framers’ lifetime concerned a former official, a former official,” he said. “Indeed, the most famous of these impeachments occurred while the famed framers gathered in Philadelphia to write the Constitution.”
The article of impeachment passed by the US House on January 13 charged Trump with “high crimes and misdemeanors” for “incitement of insurrection”.
Read the full resolution here.
Lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin began the proceedings by arguing that prohibiting presidents from facing impeachment after leaving office will create a “brand new January exception to the constitution of the United States.”
“It’s an invitation for the President to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hang on to the Oval Office at all costs and to block the peaceful transfer of power,” Raskin said.
“In other words, the January exception is an invitation to our founders worst nightmare,” said Raskin, before playing a montage of Trump’s statements and rioters at the US Capitol on January 6.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a news conference that President Joe Biden is not watching the Senate impeachment trial of his predecessor former President Donald Trump.
“Look, the Joe Biden is the president, he’s not a pundit. He’s not going to opine on the back-and-forth arguments, nor is he watching them,” Psaki said in response to a media question.
“His view is that his role should be currently focused on meeting the needs of the American people, putting people back to work, addressing the pandemic,” Psaki said.
The proceedings in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump have begun, with Rear Admiral Barry Black beginning the proceedings with a prayer.
In lieu of calling witnesses, House Democratic impeachment managers are expected to rely heavily on video, photos and tweets from the US Capitol rioters to help make their case that Trump “incited” the violence.“
I think they’ll have some video we haven’t seen yet,” former deputy US attorney general Harry Litman told Al Jazeera.
“Many of the insurrectionists actually took their own selfies as did others and I think they will present video designed to make the link as direct as possible. Video of insurrectionists saying, ‘Trump says do this, let’s go’ or Trump says stand down, we’ll stand down’”.
WATCH LIVE: The second impeachment trial of former US President Trump is under way. Over the coming days, the Senate will hear arguments about whether he is guilty of inciting last month’s Capitol riot.
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) February 9, 2021
In a legal papers filed on Tuesday, House impeachment managers argued that a pre-trial brief filed by the Trump campaign “confirms that he has no good defense of his incitement of an insurrection against the Nation he swore an oath to protect”.
“Instead, he tries to shift the blame onto his supporters, and he invokes a set of flawed legal theories that would allow Presidents to incite violence and overturn the democratic process without fear of consequences,” they wrote.
The managers also rejected the argument that they do not have jurisdiction over Trump since he has left office, saying the interpretation is “rejected by scholars across the political spectrum”.
BREAKING: U.S. House of Representatives Files Reply to Former President Trump’s Impeachment Trial Briefhttps://t.co/pzgZhiC1DD
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) February 9, 2021
House impeachment managers, who will serve as prosecutors in Trump’s impeachment trial, will present evidence not previously seen to bolster their case, senior aides told reporters on Tuesday.
The aides would not tell reporters whether the managers will call witnesses to testify, if it is allowed in the trial rules passed by the Senate.
On Tuesday, House impeachment manager Ted Lieu tweeted: “We are ready.”
We are ready.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 9, 2021
Nine House managers are set to argue that Trump’s actions and words amounted to “incitement of insurrection”, which they say is a “high crime” as laid out in the US Constitution.
Trump’s defence will argue the trial of a former president is unconstitutional and that Trump’s speech prior to the riot was not an incitement and was free speech protected by the constitution.
A two-thirds majority is required to convict the president, an extremely long shot given Democrats have only 50 seats in the 100-chamber body and that most Republicans have already staked out the position that the trial is unconstitutional.
Read more about what to watch for in the trial here.
As the United States Senate opens its second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, senators will grapple with thorny political and legal questions as House managers – who are prosecuting the case – and Trump’s defence face off.
Those questions include whether or not it is constitutionally legal for a former president to face an impeachment trial. The consensus among constitutional scholars is that it is.
Senators will also be asked to determine whether Trump’s words incited the violent breach of the US Capitol on January 6 – as Congress met to certify Biden’s victory – and if those words are protected under freedom of speech.
Read more about those legal arguments here.
Nine House impeachment managers, selected by speaker Nancy Pelosi, will serve as prosecutors in the case against Trump.
The former president’s defence will be lead by David Schoen, a criminal defence lawyer who previously represented Trump ally Roger Stone on charges of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Bruce Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney known for his decision not to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005 after a woman accused the entertainer of sexual assault.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the longest serving legislator in the chamber, will preside over the trial. That role is usually reserved for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Roberts, who oversaw Trump’s first impeachment trial, declined to take part in this trial.
Find out more about the key players in Trump’s impeachment here.