Washington The Senate voted to go ahead with the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, as a majority of senators decided they had jurisdiction to try former presidents in impeachment cases.
By 56 to 44, the Senate rejected the arguments presented by Trump’s lawyers, who maintained that holding a trial to impeach a former president was unconstitutional.
Six Republicans joined all 50 Democratic senators in the vote to go ahead with the trial. But the vote also signaled Mr Trump’s eventual acquittal, as 17 Republican senators would need to vote with Democrats in order to convict him. Senator Bill Cassidy joined five other Republican senators who had previously voted that the trial was constitutional.
Mr Trump faces one impeachment article for “inciting rebellion” for his behavior that led to the January 6 Capitol attack. Trump was fired by the House of Representatives on January 13, while he was still in office. The constitution did not address the question of whether former officials could be removed and tried in the Senate.
The first day of proceedings is devoted to the question of whether the Senate has jurisdiction to try the former president. Mr. Trump’s attorneys and the House Accountability directors were given two hours each to bring their cases to the Senate.
House directors argued that refusing to hold the impeachment trial would establish the “January exception” in which outgoing presidents could evade accountability for the proceedings in the final weeks of their term.
Democratic administrators opened proceedings with an exciting video schedule of events on January 6, showing hundreds of Trump supporters storming the Capitol to disrupt the electoral vote count. The footage was set alongside Mr. Trump’s speech to his supporters earlier in the day, when he urged his followers to “fight like hell.”
Representative Jimmy Ruskin, chief accountability director, said upon the completion of the montage, “You are asking what the greatest crime and misdemeanor is under our constitution. This is a major crime and misdemeanor.” “If this is not an impeachable crime, then there is no such thing.”
Meanwhile, the president’s attorneys have argued that the Senate does not have the power to hold an impeachment trial of former officials under the clear language of the constitution.
David Schwen, one of the former president’s attorneys, described the constitutional theory put forward by impeachment administrators as “radical” and “unprecedented,” and warned that adopting it would leave future elected officials accountable long after they leave office.
“They are ready to sacrifice our patriotism to reinforce their hatred and fear that one day they might not be the ruling party,” he said.
The trial will resume on Wednesday, when Democratic directors have eight hours to present Mr. Trump’s indictment. The two sides will have two days to present their arguments before the Senate considers potential witnesses before the final vote. Senators meet every day until a verdict is reached.