“The outcome is really not in doubt,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said.
By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff
Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial is opening this week with a sense of urgency — by Democrats who want to hold the former president accountable for the U.S. Capitol siege and Republicans who want it over as fast as possible.
Scheduled to begin Tuesday, just over a month since the deadly riot, the proceedings are expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated trial that resulted in Trump’s acquittal a year ago.
This time, while Trump is likely to be acquitted again, the trial could be over in half the time.
Details of the proceedings are still being negotiated by the Senate leaders, with the duration of opening arguments, senators’ questions and deliberations all up for debate.
So far, it appears there will be few witnesses called, as the prosecutors and defense attorneys speak directly to senators who have been sworn to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors. Most are also witnesses to the siege, having fled for safety that day as the rioters broke into the Capitol and temporarily halted the electoral count certifying Biden’s victory.
Defense attorneys for Trump declined a request for him to testify. Holed up at his Mar-a-Lago club, the former president has been silenced on social media by Twitter without public comments since leaving the White House,
Instead, House managers prosecuting the case are expected to rely on the trove of videos from the siege, along with Trump’s rhetoric refusing to concede the election, to make their case. His new defense team has said it plans to counter with its own cache of videos of Democratic politicians making fiery speeches.
“We have the unusual circumstance where on the very first day of the trial, when those managers walk on the floor of the Senate, there will already be over 100 witnesses present,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led Trump’s first impeachment. “Whether you need additional witnesses will be a strategic call.”
Trump is the first president to be twice impeached, and the only one to face trial after leaving the White House. The Democratic-led House approved a sole charge, “incitement of insurrection,” acting swiftly one week after the riot. Five people died including a woman shot by police inside the building and a police officer who died of injuries the next day.
Democrats argue it’s not only about winning conviction, but holding the former president accountable for his actions, even though he’s out of office. Critics say Democrats are mainly concerned that Trump still poses a threat and are looking for a way to bar him from again seeking office.
Initially repulsed by the graphic images of the siege, Republican senators including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell denounced the violence and pointed a finger of blame at Trump. But in recent weeks GOP senators have rallied around Trump arguing his comments do not make him responsible for the violence.
Forty-five Republicans have already voted that the trial of a former officeholder who is now a private citizen is unconstitutional. That vote on the motion put forward by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was taken on Jan. 26.
The 45 votes in favor of Paul’s measure suggested the near impossibility of reaching a conviction in a Senate where Democrats hold 50 seats but a two-thirds vote — or 67 senators — would be needed to convict Trump.
Only five Republican senators joined with Democrats to reject Paul’s motion: Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
“Republicans are going to view this as an unconstitutional exercise, and the only question is, will they call witnesses, how long does the trial take? But the outcome is really not in doubt,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said.
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi described Trump’s impeachment trial as a “meaningless messaging partisan exercise.” Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky called the proceedings a farce with “zero chance of conviction” and described Trump’s language and rally words as “figurative” speech.
Senators were sworn in as jurors late last month, shortly after Biden was inaugurated, but the trial proceedings were delayed as Democrats focused on confirming the new president’s initial Cabinet picks and Republicans sought to put as much distance as possible from the bloody riot.