Trump was impeached an unprecedented second time last month for "incitement of insurrection" after the deadly U.S. Capitol attack

By Sean Neumann
February 08, 2021 05:00 PM
Article of Impeachment
House Clerk Cheryl Johnson and Acting House Sergeant at Arms Tim Blodgett lead the House managers procession to deliver the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump from the House to the Senate
| Credit: Getty Images

About a month after a pro-Donald Trump riot killed five people at the U.S. Capitol building during a joint session of Congress, senators will gather this week to decide whether to convict or acquit the former president on one charge of inciting an insurrection.

Trump, 74, is not expected to appear at his unprecedented second impeachment trial, which will take place on the same Senate floor where some of his supporters celebrated their storming of the Capitol.

The Jan. 6 attack briefly disrupted the certification of the 2020 election results, sending members of Congress into hiding along with former Vice President Mike Pence.

Congress reconvened that night and confirmed President Joe Biden's win over Trump, who was soon impeached by the House of Representatives.

pro Trump protesters breach Capitol building
Rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

A two-thirds majority of the 100-member Senate body would need to vote against Trump in order to convict, though dozens of Republicans have signaled their reluctance claiming they do not have the constitutional authority to try a former president.

The House as well as numerous scholars disagree.

The impeachment managers from the House — lawmakers who are analogous to prosecutors and will argue the case against Trump in the Senate — say he needs to stand trial for the country to avoid a dangerous precedent and move past last month's violence.

"Failure to convict would embolden future leaders to attempt to retain power by any and all means—and would suggest that there is no line a president cannot cross," they wrote in their initial paperwork last week.

In their response, Trump's lawyers have said he did not encourage an insurrection through his actions and they have labeled his second trial a "brazen political act."

Here's what else you need to know about the trial.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump speak to the media depart the White House
President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
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When Does the Trial Begin?

Trump's impeachment trial will open Tuesday. Senators will first gather to hear the House impeachment managers and Trump's defense lawyers make arguments, before they cast their votes to either convict or acquit the former president.

If they convict, the Senate could decide to ban Trump from ever holding federal office again.

"The story of the president's actions is both riveting and horrifying," Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is leading the impeachment managers, told The New York Times. "We think that every American should be aware of what happened — that the reason he was impeached by the House and the reason he should be convicted and disqualified from holding future federal office is to make sure that such an attack on our democracy and Constitution never happens again."

How Long Will the Trial Last?

Trump's first impeachment trial, over his Ukraine scandal, took about three weeks last year. This year's prosecution is expected to take less time. For examples, the Times reports that each side will have at least 12 hours to make their case.

The timeline taking shape, according to the Times, would have the bulk of the trial conclude by Sunday, followed by a vote.

Lawmakers are also expected to move quickly because of other Senate business, such as confirming President Joe Biden's remaining cabinet nominees and voting on his COVID-19 aid package.

Who Are the Impeachment Managers?

Raskin will lead a group of Democratic representatives from the House to argue the case against Trump. Joining Raskin will be Reps. Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean and Joe Neguse.

Article of Impeachment
The Impeachment managers from the House of Representatives proceed through the Capitol Rotunda to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate on Jan. 25.
| Credit: Getty Images

Who Are Trump’s Lawyers?

Attorneys Bruce L. Castor and David Schoen will lead Trump's defense team, joining earlier this month after the former president's announced team abruptly departed.

Castor, 59, is likely best known nationally as the former district attorney of Montgomery County in Pennsylvania, who declined to prosecute disgraced comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault in 2005. (Cosby was convicted of that crime in 2018, though he ha denied the charge and is appealing.)

Schoen, 62, was previously tapped to represent Trump ally Roger Stone during the Russia investigation, before the former president commuted his friend's sentence and later pardoned him. The attorney had also met with accused child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in 2019, days before Epstein apparently killed himself in custody.

Patrick Leahy
Sen. Patrick Leahy, who will preside over Trump's second impeachment trial
| Credit: Ting Shen/Getty Images

What Will Both Sides Argue?

Both sides previewed their overall arguments for the case last week in their initial impeachment filings.

The former president's attorneys say Trump shouldn't face impeachment now that he's out of office, while the impeachment managers say he needs to be held responsible for making "militaristic" demands after months falsely claiming the election was stolen and then telling supporters to "fight like hell" and to march to the Capitol building where lawmakers were gathered inside.

(Trump also told attendees at his rally earlier on Jan. 6 to be patriotic and "peaceful" but he later praised the rioters and tweeted — before Twitter banned his account — that "these are the things and events that happen.")

"It is impossible to imagine the events of January 6 occurring without President Trump creating a powder keg, striking a match, and then seeking personal advantage from the ensuing havoc," the House impeachment managers wrote in their filings.

Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers say they're skeptical of the claim that his disgruntled speech before the riot "had anything to do with the action at the Capitol," where members of the violent mob dressed in pro-Trump clothing attacked police officers and broke into the building, some seemingly hunting for lawmakers.

Not so, argue the prosecutors, who wrote last week: "Provoked and incited by President Trump, who told them to 'fight like hell,' hundreds of insurrectionists arrived at the Capitol and launched an assault on the building—a seditious, deadly attack against the Legislative Branch and the Vice President without parallel in American history."