Trump’s impeachment trial will focus on his election attacks | Chicago News
Video: Heidi Kitrosser, Visiting Professor at Northwestern University, and Will Howell, Professor at the University of Chicago, discuss President Donald Trump’s impending impeachment trial on “Chicago Tonight.” (Directed by Paul Caine)
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment could be judged on inauguration day, with U.S. senators serving not only as jurors, but also shocked personal witnesses and victims of the murderous siege of Capitol Hill by a mob of his supporters.
Trump is the only president to have been indicted twice and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an increasingly extraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure.
Continuing the conviction, House impeachment officials said Thursday they would argue that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric hours before the bloody attack on Capitol Hill was not isolated, but rather part of a campaign growing to overturn the November election results. This culminated, they will say, in the Republican president’s rallying cry to “fight like hell” as Congress tallied the Electoral College’s votes to confirm he had lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
The trial could begin shortly after Biden is sworn in next Wednesday, but some Democrats are calling for a subsequent trial to give him time to set up his administration and work on other priorities. No date has been set. Already National Guard troops are flooding the city and protecting the Capitol amid warnings of more violence ahead of the inauguration. It’s a much different picture, due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as threats of violence, traditional pomp and peaceful transfer of power.
Each time he begins, the impeachment trial will force a recalculation for the Republican Party and the senators who have broadly supported Trump throughout his presidency and allowed him to propagate bogus attacks on the 2020 election. Last week’s assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and projected disturbing images around the world, the most serious violation of the Capitol since the War of 1812 and the worst local intruder.
“The only way to reunify this broken and divided country is to shed light on the truth,” said Representative Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., Who will serve as impeachment official.
“This is what the Senate trial will be about,” she told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Trump was impeached by the House on Wednesday on a single charge, inciting insurgency, in a lightning-fast process just a week after the siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 impeachment vote.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is ready to consider impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but has not indicated how he will vote. McConnell continues to wield great influence over his party, although calling the trial next week could be one of his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate.
No president has ever been sentenced in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. Two new Georgian senators, both Democrats, must be sworn in, leaving the chamber divided 50-50. This will tip the majority towards Democrats once Kamala Harris takes office. The vice president is the tiebreaker.
But condemnation of Trump is not impossible, especially as businesses and wealthy political donors distance themselves from his politics and the Republicans who supported his attempt to overturn the election.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday: “Such illegal actions cannot be without consequence. She said in a statement that the Chamber had responded “appropriately” with impeachment and that it would consider the trial arguments.
At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about Trump’s actions, but others have signaled their preference to move forward. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark. Released a statement saying he opposes the impeachment of a president who has stepped down. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is stepping up support for an alternative of launching a commission to investigate the siege.
Ahead of the opening arguments, Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell of California, another impeachment official, suggested senators would be asked to focus on their own experiences on the day of the attack.
“You don’t have to tell anyone in the building twice what it was like to be scared,” Swalwell said.
The riot delayed the Electoral College vote count which was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory as lawmakers fled for safety and police, guns, barricaded the gates of the room of the House.
A Capitol police officer died of injuries sustained in the attack and police shot dead a woman. Three other people have died in what authorities have called a medical emergency.
According to Senate procedure, the trial is to begin shortly after the House renders the article of impeachment. The earliest the schedule for senators to return to session is Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not said when she will take the crucial next step to forward the impeachment article to the Senate. After Trump’s first impeachment, in 2019, she withheld articles for a while to set the stage for Senate action.
Biden said the Senate should be able to divide its work this time around, starting the trial and working on its priorities, including the early confirmation of its Cabinet candidates.
On inauguration day, the Senate usually confirms some members of the new president’s cabinet, especially national security officials. Avril Haines’ choice of Biden as director of national intelligence will be heard by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday.
“We are working with Republicans to try to find a way forward,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
Biden’s ally, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Said tension between Democrats had stopped moving quickly on impeachment or focusing on the president-elect’s other priorities. “We are in balance,” he told CNN.
Locked in the White House, watching the impeachment process on television, Trump released a video statement Wednesday evening in which he called on his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Biden’s nomination.
“Crowd violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for,” Trump said.
He was first indicted by the House in 2019 for his relations with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit him.
By arguing for the constitutionally required “serious crimes and misdemeanors”, the four-page impeachment resolution draws on Trump’s own language of spreading election lies. It also aims to prevent him from taking up public office again.
Judges across the country, including some appointed by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, said there was no no sign of widespread fraud.
While some have questioned the president’s impeachment so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during Ulysses Grant’s administration, Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached by the House on the day he resigned, and the Senate called a trial months later. He was acquitted.