Trump impeachment trial
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Former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial continues into its third day Thursday, with House impeachment managers and lawyers for the defense continuing upward of four days of proceedings.
House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), went first on Wednesday for their first of two eight hour sessions. Trial rules allow each side 16 hours to present their arguments with an eight-hour daily cap.
The team has one more eight-hour session on Thursday to make their case for “incitement of insurrection.”
Once Raskin’s team has finished delivering their case, or has run out the allotted 16 hours, Trump’s defense lawyers will have their turn to argue theirs.
As they’ve done in days prior, House managers plan to continue their use of video taken during the Capitol riot, which has served as a key element of their impeachment effort.
The House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump one week to the day after the siege.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Thursday’s proceedings:
Where to watch
The trial will be carried on all major TV news networks, and will also be available for streaming through C-Span, PBS and YouTube, beginning at 12 p.m. ET.
How it works
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is presiding over the Senate trial — rather than Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s first trial last year.
Leahy said the chief justice won’t preside because Trump is no longer president.
“The [Senate] president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents,” Leahy, 80, said in a statement.
Proceedings were originally going to take a pause from Friday evening through Saturday for Trump attorney David Schoen to observe the Jewish Sabbath. But in a last-minute schedule change, Schoen rescinded that request.
The trial is still not expected to go on past Sunday.
What’s happened in the trial so far
On Tuesday, the first day of proceedings, House impeachment managers debated Trump’s attorneys, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, on the constitutionality of the trial itself.
Castor spoke during his remarks before the Senate about the fall of ancient governments in Rome and Greece, barely addressing the case against the former president.
His performance was panned by Democratic and GOP senators alike, leading one Republican, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, to change positions and vote to call the trial constitutional.
On Wednesday, Democratic prosecutors presented previously-unseen dramatic video footage of the deadly siege, as well as clips of the then-president’s speech at the “Save America Rally” just before.
As he delivered arguments, Raskin called Trump the “inciter-in-chief” of the riot before accusing the 45th president of watching the violence unfold on TV with “glee and delight.”
“To us, it may have felt like chaos and madness — but there was method to the madness that day,” Raskin said.
Fellow impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) argued that Trump set the stage for the riot in the months before by repeating the “big lie” that the election had been “stolen, full of fraud, rigged.”
Neguse also said that during the speech to his supporters, Trump “didn’t just tell them to ‘fight like hell,’ he told them how, where and when” — then did nothing afterward.
“Ask yourself: If, as soon as this had started, if he had gone on TV or logged onto Twitter and said, ‘Stop this attack’ with as much force as he said, ‘Stop the steal,’ how many lives would have been saved?” Neguse said.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t do that.”
Chaos ensued at the end of Wednesday’s proceedings, when Sen. Mike Lee (R-Ut.) demanded remarks made by Rep. David Cicilline associated with him be stricken from the record.
The statement in question was related to reports by unnamed sources of a voicemail allegedly released by Lee’s office which had been left on his phone by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.
Giuliani had allegedly been trying to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Al.) but unknowingly phoned Lee instead and left a message asking him to help delay the Electoral College certification process.
It is not believed that Lee had any actual contact with Giuliani or involvement in the matters being heard in the impeachment trial.
While delivering arguments Wednesday, however, Rep Cicilline (D-RI) characterized the series of events differently.
“Sen. Lee described it. He had just ended a prayer with his colleagues here in the Senate chamber, and the phone rang. It was Donald Trump. Sen. Lee explains that the phone call goes something like this: ‘Hey, Tommy,’ Trump asks. Sen. Lee says, ‘This isn’t Tommy.’ He hands the phone to Sen. Tuberville,” the Rhode Island lawmaker said.
“Sen. Lee then confirmed that he stood by as Sen. Tuberville and President Trump spoke on the phone. And on that call, Donald Trump reportedly asked Sen. Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification process,” he continued.
Cicilline’s claim appeared to infuriate Lee, who was seen by a gaggle of reporters writing “This is not what happened” on a sheet of paper, ripping it off his legal pad and handing it to Schoen.
The remarks were later stricken following commotion, with Raskin defending Cicilline’s depiction of events, saying he “correctly and accurately quoted a newspaper account which the distinguished senator has taken objection to.”
“We’re happy to withdraw it,” he continued, adding, “This is much ado about nothing because it’s not critical in any way to our case.”
“You’re not the one being cited as a witness, sir,” Lee hit back.
Where Democrats and Republicans stand
Democrats hold a slight edge in the 50-50 Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, meaning they would need 17 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote to convict Trump, which appears less and less likely with time.
While Castor’s performance itself was criticized in a bipartisan fashion, the attorney does not appear to be moving those senators in the former president’s camp toward convicting.
Democrats remain almost completely united in their support for impeaching Trump.
Asked whether he thought any Republican minds had been changed after Tuesday’s proceedings, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) replied, “Ask them.”
As of Wednesday night, not many of those minds appear changed, as evidenced by the slew of Republicans who made cable news appearances after the trial condemning it on multiple fronts.
Speaking to Sean Hannity on Fox News late Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the charges against the former president “offensive and absurd.”
“They were planning bombs the night before,” he continued, “So the whole story line that Donald Trump caused this, by the speech, has fallen apart thanks to good law enforcement activity.”
Graham continued, “This thing is collapsing before their eyes and the ‘not guilty’ vote is growing.”
In another appearance on the same Fox News program Wednesday night, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) also slammed the impeachment proceedings.
Jordan also referenced the “pre-planned” argument from House impeachment managers, asking, “how did the president incite a breach of the Capitol when the FBI knew ahead of time this was pre-planned? When pipe bombs were found ahead of time, before the president even had the rally.”
“Last summer Democrat members of the Congress said there needs to be more unrest in the streets, while there was unrest in the streets — and somehow that’s not incitement?” Jordan added.
“But when the president says ‘peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,’ they’re going to impeach him?”
Nunes, meanwhile, knocked the impeachment prosecutors’ evidence, saying none of it proved that the then-president personally incited the violence.
“What is really happening here is you have a radical left in total control of the government now and they don’t want Donald Trump to win. They fear his rallies. They fear that 74.5 million people voted for Donald Trump. That is what is really going on here,” he told the network.
Where Biden stands
The current commander-in-chief, for his part, has steered clear of the impeachment effort by other leaders in his party.
When asked whether President Biden would be watching the proceedings on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, “The president himself would tell you that we keep him pretty busy, and he has a full schedule this week.
“I think it’s clear from the schedule and from his intention he will not spend too much time watching the proceeding, if any time.”
When asked directly about it outside the White House on Monday, Biden declined to offer his stance, saying it should be left to the Senate to decide.
“Look, he got an offer to come testify. He decided not to. We will let the Senate work it out.”
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