Second Trump impeachment trial starts

Published February 10, 2021, 9:01 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

WASHINGTON, United States – The US Senate gavels in Tuesday on Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, with his defense team decrying it as a “brazen political act” of retribution and Democratic prosecutors arguing that the ex-president willfully incited a violent insurrection.

Donald Trump
(Nakamura / Getty Images / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The House of Representatives impeached him last month over his role in the deadly January 6 siege of the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, and his trial – the first of a former president – will feature the Senate’s 100 members sitting as jurors.

Trump’s legal team Monday denounced the case as unconstitutional, calling it ”absurd” to hold the former president responsible for the violence.

But in a preview of their prosecuting arguments, Democrats accused Trump Monday of committing the ”most grievous constitutional crime” in the 232-year history of the American presidency by inciting his supporters to storm Congress.

The trial occurs with much of Capitol Hill still locked down under intense security one month after the unrest.

Amid continued fears of extremist attacks, 6,000 National Guard members remain deployed in Washington, adding to the picture of a capital still on edge.

The proceedings kick off at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT). According to a bi-partisan deal, there first will be up to four hours of debate and a vote on the constitutionality of trying an ex-president.

Arguments will be heard beginning Wednesday, with 16 hours provided over two days per side.

Senators will then pose questions to the two teams, and a majority vote will be needed if either side wants to call witnesses. Trump has already declined an invitation to testify.

The trial is expected to extend into next week.

Trump team blasts ‘absurd” impeachment

On the eve of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, his legal team Monday denounced the case as unconstitutional, calling it “absurd” to hold the former president responsible for the deadly riot at the US Capitol.

Trump is a deeply damaged political figure, in part because of his relentless false claims about voter fraud. But he remains a powerful force in the Republican Party.

Charged with ”incitement of insurrection,” he is likely once again to avoid conviction due to loyal support in the Senate, but his lawyers contended in their final pre-trial filing that the Constitution does not give the chamber jurisdiction to try a former president.

‘Leave it to the Senate’

President Joe Biden, who succeeded Trump on January 20, declined Monday to address whether Trump should be found guilty or denied the right to hold future political office.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki later told reporters that Biden ran against Trump in 2020 “because he felt he was unfit for office,” but added that the president will “leave it to the Senate to see this impeachment proceeding through.”

Should Trump be convicted, the Senate will then hold a simple-majority vote on barring him from future public office.