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Senate votes to proceed with Trump impeachment trial; says it’s constitutional

President Trump at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
February 09, 2021

After four hours of debate between House impeachment managers and former President Donald Trump’s lawyers, the Senate voted on Tuesday to proceed with the impeachment trial against the former president.

In a vote of 56-44, the Senate vote determined that the chamber has the jurisdiction to try Trump despite having left office, and that doing so is constitutional. The trial will continue at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Republican Sens. Collins, Cassidy, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse, Toomey sided with Democrats in the vote.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, insisted that there is no “January exception” that allows presidents to carry out corrupt acts to evade impeachment. He maintained that impeaching Trump now is a matter of accountability.

The House managers played a video montage showing Trump’s remarks on Jan. 6 in which the former president insisted the election was stolen and encouraged his supporters to stand up against the corruption. The video then cut to graphic footage showing violent attacks on police at the Capitol, as well as the scene of Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit being fatally shot – acts that Democrats say Trump incited.

Trump’s legal team maintained that they “denounced [the violence] in the most vigorous terms,” but that the Democrats’ efforts to impeach Trump had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 Capitol storming. They then played a video montage of Democrats calling for his impeachment since 2017.

Trump’s legal team argued that the Constitution’s language on impeachments refers to sitting presidents only – a title that Trump no longer has. They said that trying a civilian in a congressional body is unconstitutional and lacks due process.

“Presidents are impeachable because they are removable,” Trump lawyer David Schoen said. “Former presidents are not because they cannot be removed.”

Trump lawyer Bruce Castor warned the Senate that proceeding with impeachment and convicting Trump would cause the “floodgates” to open.

“The political pendulum will shift one day — this chamber and the chamber across the way will change one day and partisan impeachments will become commonplace.”