Trump Impeachment

Trump’s impeachment trial at the Senate: all you need to know

Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in just over a year began Tuesday in the Senate. Here’s how the trial will work, who is involved and timeline.

Trump’s impeachment trial at the Senate: all you need to know
ERIC BARADAT AFP

Donald Trump has broken two grim records with this, his second impeachment. First, on 13 January 2021 when the House of Representatives impeached him he became the first president in history to ever be impeached a second time. He is now also the only president to ever be tried for impeachment when he is no longer serving in office.

The trial began Tuesday at 1pm ET in the Senate, but who is involved, what do they argue and when will we know the outcome?

The trial is due to run through the weekend, but it is yet unclear how long it will run on for, as this depends heavily upon whether witnesses are called or not. Some Democrats are keen to call witnesses in order to thoroughly investigate the events of the Capitol riot on 6 January, whereas others are keen to move quickly beyond that, in order to begin with the business of confirming Biden’s cabinet nominees and debating spending legislation. Calling witnesses could delay the process by weeks or even months, say USA Today.

What’s Trump being impeached for?

In the US Constitution, impeachment is appropriate when a President or other federal official has committed one of the violations described as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It allows a President to be removed from office; and after the trial the Senate could subsequently vote to disqualify Trump from ever holding federal office again.

The article of impeachment drawn up by Democrats the very night of 6 January, when an insurrection on the Capitol complex endangered hundreds and killed five is brief. It charges Trump with threatening “the integrity of the democratic system”, interfering “with the peaceful transition of power”, and imperilling “a coequal branch of Government.”

How long will the impeachment trial last? 

Trump’s defence team claims that the constitution makes clear that an ex-president cannot be tried for impeachment, while Lead House Impeachment Manager Rep. Jamie Raskin has argued that’s not how impeachment works "The constitution makes clear there is no January exception to the impeachment power, that a president can't commit grave offenses in their final days and escape any congressional response."

Tuesday, 9 February, 1pm ET: Tuesday’s opening statements centred on the question of whether the trial is constitutional or not. Following four hours of statements split equally between prosecution and defence, a vote of 56-44 deemed that the trial was indeed constitutional and will succeed.

Wednesday, 10 February, 12pm ET through to Friday: The House of Representatives will argue its case; prosecutors and defence will be given up to 16 hours each to present their arguments, with neither side permitted to present for more than eight hours per day.

Friday, 12 February, 5pm ET: Senate breaks for Saturday (TBC whether break will be Saturday or Sunday at time of writing)

Sunday, 14 February, 2pm ET: Senate trial reconvenes Sunday afternoon, continuing presentation of arguments.

Following up to 16 hours each of arguments from prosecutors and defence, senators will have four hours to give questions. If Democrat Impeachment Managers decide to bring witnesses, four hours of debate split between Republicans and Democrats will take place, then the Senate will vote on whether witnesses are permitted.

Once witnesses and evidence have been presented to the Senate, there will be four hours of closing arguments split between both sides.

Finally, there will be a vote on conviction or acquittal. A two-thirds majority is required to convict, which would mean all Democrats plus 17 Republican senators voting in favour of conviction.

Who is Donald Trump’s defence?

Trump’s defence attorneys are Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen.

Bruce Castor Jr. is a former Republican district attorney in Montgomery County, near Philadelphia. He also previously served as county commissioner.

David Schoen is a lawyer from Alabama who has tried cases in the South on police brutality and civil rights. He’s long been a legal commentator on television and for a time provided legal counsel for Roger Stone, a Trump confidante, according to NPR

Michael van der Veen, lesser known than Castor and Schoen, is a Philadelphia-based lawyer specialising in personal injury and criminal defence.

Who is the prosecution?

Serving on the prosecution will be nine House members, some familiar faces from Trump’s first impeachment. Chosen by Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they are Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Diana DeGette of Colorado, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Eric Swalwell of California, Ted Lieu of California, Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, Joe Neguse of Colorado and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday during opening statements, Impeachment Manager Rep. Raskin began the trial with brief remarks before showing a video of the attack on the Capitol on 6 January. "You will not be hearing extended lectures from me because our case is based on cold hard facts. It's all about the facts."

Who will be on the jury?

The jury will consist of all 100 current US senators of the 117th Congress. There are 12 senators still serving in the upper chamber of Congress just a little more than two decades after first serving as jurors in a presidential impeachment trial – for Clinton in 1999 - who will once again serve on the jury this week.

These Senate members include Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Richard Shelby of Alabama. The Democrats include Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Patty Murray of Washington, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Chuck Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon, according to Newsweek.