The US Senate is moving forward with a trial of former President Donald Trump on indictment of incitement to insurgency for his role in the Jan.6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
The Senate voted 55 to 45 to dismiss an objection to the procedure raised by a Republican senator on the grounds that the US constitution does not provide for the impeachment of former presidents.
The vote paves the way for the start of a Senate trial, but signals that most Republicans oppose the procedure and suggests Trump could avoid conviction.
Republican Senator Rand Paul has argued that because Trump is now a “private citizen,” the US constitution does not allow the Senate to conduct an impeachment trial.
“The theory that the impeachment of a former public servant is unconstitutional is totally wrong,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Senate ahead of the vote.
“He has been completely debunked by constitutional scholars from all political backgrounds,” Schumer added.
The Senate adopted rules for the presentation of evidence and arguments in the trial and issued a summons to Trump ordering him to respond to the impeachment charge.
House officials and Trump’s legal defense team now have until February 8 to file a series of briefs and legal documents. The Senate will meet again on February 9 for the trial.
“Calmer heads have generally prevailed in our history and have allowed public opinion to shift blame where blame is deserved,” Paul said in Senate remarks.
“This sham of impeachment will ostensibly ask whether the president instigated the reprehensible behavior and violence of January 6 when he said, ‘I know everyone here is going to march to Capitol Hill to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.’ Paul said, reciting a line from Trump’s speech.
“In a peaceful and patriotic way, these are not words of violence,” Paul said.
The House deposed Trump Jan. 13 on a single charge of “incitement to insurgency” making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.
Trump had refused to concede the outcome of Joe Biden’s 2020 election as the next US president and he gathered his supporters in Washington for a rally on January 6, the same day Congress met in joint session to ratify Biden’s electoral victory.
In a speech outside the White House, Trump urged the crowd to march on Capitol Hill where Congress is meeting.
The former president urged his supporters to “fight like hell” to prevent Biden from being confirmed as president. Thousands of people marched to the Capitol and a crowd of hundreds stormed the building, sending lawmakers underground and killing five.
Five Republican senators joined the 50 Democrats in rejecting Paul’s point or order against the lawsuit; Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
Collins told reporters on Capitol Hill with 45 Republicans already voting against the trial, it seems unlikely there will be enough support to condemn Trump.
– Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) January 26, 2021
Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who announced Monday that he would not be running for re-election in 2022, said he had not made a decision on how much responsibility Trump was in the events of January 6.
GOP @senrobportman: “” I have been very clear that former President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6 through his words and actions. I will listen as a juror, but as I said, I have questions about the constitutionality of holding a trial in the Senate… ”
– Erik Wasson (@elwasson) January 26, 2021
Senator Patrick Leahy, the main Democrat appointed as interim Senate speaker, will preside over the trial and serve as a juror.
All of the remaining 99 senators were sworn in as jurors, each going to the Senate chamber well to sign their oath of impartiality.
The US House of Representatives presented its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Monday evening, a step that officially triggered the Senate trial.
Walking from one side of the US Capitol to the other, nine House Directors appointed by President Nancy Pelosi hand-delivered the impeachment document to the Senate.
The article accuses Trump of the murderous Jan.6 assault on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC, by a crowd of his supporters.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar and one of the House Directors, will act as prosecutor in the Senate trial.
“President Trump has repeatedly issued false statements claiming that the results of the presidential election were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people, nor certified by state officials or from the federal government, ”Raskin told the Senate on Monday.
To be convicted, the Senate must obtain a two-thirds majority on the impeachment charge.
If that happens, a subsequent vote could prevent Trump from running for public office again in the future.