Senate Votes To Proceed With Trump's Second Impeachment Trial

House impeachment managers and former President Trump's defense team debated the constitutionality of holding the trial after Trump left office.
Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 09, 2021

"Morning business is closed and the Senate will convene as a court of impeachment," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, presiding officer for the impeachment trial. 

The second impeachment trial for former President Trump kicked off Tuesday. The focus of day one: whether the Constitution allows the Senate to hold the trial after Trump left office. 

"Given the Framers' intense focus on danger to elections and the peaceful transfer of power, it is inconceivable that they designed impeachment to be a dead letter in the president's final days in office, when opportunities to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power would be most tempting and most dangerous," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager. 

Following a video presentation of the crimes in the Capitol on Jan. 6 paired with Donald Trump's comments that day, the House managers focused on the need to hold Trump accountable for actions he took while he was president. They cited the past impeachments of Sen. William Blount and Secretary of War William Belknap, whose impeachment trials were held after they left office. 

Trump's defense team argued the House impeachment process was rushed and lacked due process for the former president. They also said Trump's comments at the Jan. 6 rally are protected by the First Amendment. 

"We can't possibly be suggesting that we punish people for political speech in this country. And if people go and commit lawless acts as a result of their beliefs and they cross the line, they should be locked up. And, in fact, I've seen quite a number of the complaints that were filed against the people who breached the Capitol. Some of them charged with conspiracy. Not a single one of them, I noticed, charged conspiracy with the 45th president of the United States," said Bruce Castor, attorney for Donald Trump.

Trump's lawyers also said the House managers' presentation caused them to change their plan at the last minute.

"I'll be quite frank with you: We changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers' presentation was well done. And I wanted you to know that we have responses to those things," said Castor.

After arguments concluded, the Senate voted 56-44 to proceed with the trial. Six Republicans joined the Democratic caucus to vote yes.

Tuesday's vote was actually the second time senators weighed in on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial. On Jan. 26, Sen. Rand Paul forced a vote on the same issue. At that time, five Republicans broke with their caucus to support moving forward.

The Senate trial will continue Wednesday at noon Eastern. The House managers will start using their 16 hours to present their case.