U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to proceed with the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Opening arguments in the trial began Wednesday.
The Senate voted 56-44 that the impeachment trial of Trump is constitutional despite calls from some Republicans to dismiss proceedings. Six Republican senators voted with all 50 Democrats.
“The Senate shall proceed with the trial,” said Democratic senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is presiding over the trial, after the vote was tallied.
The vote came after House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team spent four hours debating over whether a president who is out of office can be subject to a Senate trial.
Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead impeachment manager, opened his presentation with a video showing disturbing footage of how protesters overran police and ransacked the Capitol.
The 13-minute video concluded with Trump’s deleted tweet on Jan. 6, which said “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.”
“If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing,” Raskin said.
Trump’s legal team contended that Trump did not incite the rioters and that his speech about the election was protected by the First Amendment.
Trump’s lawyer David Schoen charged that Democrats were using impeachment as a political “blood sport” to try to keep Trump from running for office again.
Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin Wednesday. It will continue at least through Friday, but could extend into next week.
The House impeachment managers and Trump’s team will have 16 hours over two days each to present their case to the Senate, according to the agreement struck between Democrats and Republicans, as well as the House managers and Trump’s legal team.
The House, where Democrats have a majority, voted to impeach Trump over “incitement of insurrection” on Jan. 13, a week after his supporters stormed the Capitol building.
Trump has rejected a request that he testify during the trial, and the former president’s legal team argues that any conviction would be unconstitutional.
Senate conviction requires a two-thirds majority. Democrats, who only hold half of the 100 Senate seats, would need at least 17 Republicans voting to convict the former president.
Trump is the first president in the U.S. history impeached twice. In December 2019, House Democrats impeached Trump on two articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his family. He was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February 2020.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service