Here’s what you need to know when the House meets at 9 a.m. on Wednesday to begin the process.
1) Why dismiss now?
Democrats are clear that impeaching Trump precisely a week before he leaves office could leave some Americans in awe. But the House leaders nonetheless highlighted multiple reasons for moving forward.
The first is the seriousness of Trump’s conduct. Trump didn’t just make the hackneyed comments at a rally when he urged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill and pressure lawmakers to suspend President-elect Joe Biden’s certification of victory. The remarks were the culmination of a months-long effort to convince supporters that the 2020 election had been stolen from him.
Democrats note that Trump embarked on a relentless campaign, even before November 3, to cast doubt on the integrity of the election, and his claims have become more outlandish and conspiratorial over time, even as courts, election officials and fact-checks disproved them. One of Trump’s most daring moves came less than two weeks ago, when he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and pressured him to try unilaterally to undo Biden’s victory in the state.
Democrats describe this lengthy effort, including the Raffensperger appeal, in their only impeachment article, under the headline “willful incitement to insurgency.” The conduct, they say, is so damaging to the foundation of American democracy that to do nothing would be dereliction, even with the expiration of Trump’s tenure.
A separate reason given by some Democrats for impeaching: The process could constrain Trump’s worst impulses in the last week of his tenure, knowing that any new incitement could persuade Senate Republicans – most of whom have already withstood the pressure of the House – to act against him. And finally, an ongoing indictment would become the immediate backdrop for any attempt by Trump to forgive himself or his supporters for their role in the riots.
2) Will Republicans support impeachment this time?
Yes. A dozen House Republicans – and possibly more – are considering joining the Democrats. On the eve of impeachment from the House, House GOP Conference Speaker Liz Cheney announced that she would vote to impeach Trump and GOP officials. John Katko and Adam Kinzinger have said they will, too.
Particularly after it was reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that Trump’s actions qualified him for a resignation, there was a feeling Tuesday night that a flood of Republican support for impeachment could be on the way.
So far, at least three Republican senators have publicly declared their openness to sentencing this time around. And a fourth, Senator Mitt Romney, became the first lawmaker in history to vote to convict a president of his own party in 2019. He was the only GOP lawmaker in either chamber to approve the impeachment of Trump the last time.
3) Can the Senate hold a trial for Trump after he leaves?
Yes. Although McConnell has privately expressed his willingness to oust Trump, he also recently signaled that the Senate would not be taking over House Articles until he returned to session on January 19, a day before Biden took office.
Trump’s few legal supporters say the Senate has no reason to hold an impeachment trial for a private citizen, which Trump would become just 24 hours after the process began. But the Constitution also empowers the Senate to impose a penalty on the convicted person which is not limited to the dismissal of his functions.
A convicted president might never be allowed to hold federal office again, making Trump’s return in 2024 impossible. A Senate conviction could also rob Trump of his post-presidential salary and other perks of being a former president.
4) What would a Senate trial look like?
By their nature, Senate trials are slow and laborious. Usually the first day is about paperwork – the arrival of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the swearing in of the Senate to sit on the president’s judgment. The second day is devoted to establishing the rules of the trial, including the parameters of potential witnesses and the length of arguments.
In 2019, each party had 24 hours to present their case, spread over three days each. After that, senators are allowed to ask questions of prosecutors and defense lawyers, a process that can take several days. This is followed by any additional motions – such as calling witnesses – before deliberations and a verdict.
This time, the Senate could opt for several paths:
– A traditional trial with similar argument lengths that would extend a few weeks and consume the attention of the Senate during the early days of the Biden administration.
– A truncated trial that includes much shorter presentations, an acknowledgment of the more public nature of the evidence against Trump.
– A longer half-day trial that allows the Senate to focus on its other business for much of the day. Biden suggested the approach as a compromise that will allow him to rule with Congress early in his term even as the Senate considers the accusation against Trump.
5) Who will represent Trump at the trial?
This is one of the thorniest questions facing the president as he prepares to face his second indictment. Its initial test team included Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin, as well as White House attorneys Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin. None of them should come back.
That leaves Rudy Giuliani – who has berated Republican senators as “quislings” in recent weeks for refusing to call off the election – and Alan Dershowitz, who has defended Trump for free speech reasons, as potential options , although Dershowitz did not commit to becoming a formal part of the Trump team.
The other question is what opportunities will these lawyers have to respond to the House charges against Trump? Although Democrats prioritized due process last time around and at least given Trump the chance to rebut the charges and present a case – chances Trump has consistently missed – their frenzied pace could prevent a bigger offer. solid for the president to present a counter-argument.
6) What if the Senate removed Trump before January 20?
It seems unlikely, but not impossible. This would force the Senate to resume its work sooner than expected – a procedural maneuver that itself would be difficult to organize, as only one senator can object.
But if two-thirds of the Senate voted to condemn Trump by January 20, Vice President Mike Pence would take office before Biden and Biden are inaugurated, despite plenty of campaign merchandise suggesting otherwise, would become the 47th President of the States. -United.
7) Is there a precedent for such a hasty indictment?
Actually there is, but it’s been a while. Andrew Johnson’s very first indictment in 1868 began a day after violating the Tenure Act.
A House committee recommended impeachment on February 22 of that year, and the president was impeached on March 2. Ultimately, the Senate trial dragged on for nearly three months before Johnson was acquitted by a single vote. Don’t count on a Senate trial that will last until April.