By Ariel Steinsaltz
The impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump began in the Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Trump was charged with inciting the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6., according to ABC News.
Though he left office on Jan. 20, Trump and his administration are still the subject of much controversy. Just before his impeachment trial was set to begin, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office launched an investigation into the former president over phone calls where he attempted to tamper with election results. The phone call was mentioned in the articles of impeachment, ABC News reported.
Before the trial began, there was an argument on whether it was constitutional to hold the trial given that Trump is already out of office. House Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin said that the trial was a matter of protecting the constitution, and that presidents should not be able to get away with violating the constitution simply because they are near the end of their terms. "You will not be hearing extended lectures from me,” he said. “Our case is based on cold, hard facts.”
Raskin also played a video from the Capitol attacks. “If that's not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” Raskin declared.
Bruce Castor, a member of Trump’s legal team, denounced the events of Jan. 6 before getting into the defense. He argued that the country’s founders never meant for former officials to be impeached and claimed Trump’s words were protected by the first amendment. He also said that if the trial went forward, then partisan trials would become commonplace, and criticized the House for providing only one article of impeachment, which he claimed was too broad.
Ultimately, the Senate voted 56-44 that the trial was constitutional and could proceed with six Republicans joining the Democrats in the decision, according to ABC News. Of the six republicans were Bill Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, according to CNN.
Former President Trump was apparently unhappy with his lawyers’ performance on Tuesday, according to CNN. It was expected, given that the new team was formed recently. The lawyers reportedly switched speaking slots at the last minute, and Trump was said to be almost screaming as Castor spoke. This reportedly left Trump’s team scrambling to find videos to support their case, and David Schoen replaced Bruce Castor as the face of the former president’s legal team.
The second day of the trial began on Wednesday with the House managers beginning their arguments against Trump. Rep. Joe Neguse, one of the House impeachment managers, urged the senators to remember three phrases Trump used in the days preceding the riot in the Capitol, saying that they served as evidence of Trump inciting his supporters to commit the riot. The phrases were “The big lie,” referring to the false claims the election was rigged, “Stop the steal,” which was Trump telling his supporters not to concede and “Fight like hell to Stop the Steal,” which Neguse said was a call to arms, according to CNN.
The impeachment managers argued against Trump’s first amendment claims by arguing that he was inciting violence and pointed out the rally that the former president held the day of the Capitol insurrection scheduled to happen during the vote certification and which Neguse described as a “save the date.” The impeachment managers also cited rioters who claimed to have been following Trump’s orders and brought up his many attempts to overturn the election results, according to CNN.
House Impeachment Manager Stacey Plaskett claimed that Trump was aware that his supporters were planning the Capitol riot months in advance, according to CNN. The House managers revealed new information from the riot, including an audio clip and video showing that Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman likely saved Senator Mitt Romney’s life by diverting him away from rioters. Romney later spoke to Goodman to thank him.
House managers also mentioned that the rioters had planned to execute Mike Pence, with GOP sources saying that the evidence presented was clearly targeted at Senate Republicans. Despite this, many said they were unlikely to change their minds and vote to convict the former president.
Bruce Castor said that the House managers were failing to connect the footage from the insurrection to Trump, but Republican Senator John Thune said that they were connecting the dots between Trump’s words and the events, according to CNN. Some Republican Senators, like Ted Cruz of Texas, agreed there was not a clear connection.
At the end of the second day, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said that at most six GOP Senators would vote to convict the former president, according to CNN. The House impeachment managers will continue to make their case against Trump tomorrow.