Abandoning Trump impeachment trial would make ‘mockery’ of the process. What’s happening now

In five days, oral arguments for the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump will begin, weeks after Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. Doing otherwise would “make a mockery of the system,” President Joe Biden said in an interview with People published Wednesday.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Former President Donald Trump faces his second impeachment trial in the Senate. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

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Former President Donald Trump faces his second impeachment trial in the Senate. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

“He was impeached by the House and it has to move forward, otherwise it would come off as farcical what this was all about,” Biden said. “I don’t know what is likely to happen … it’s probably not likely that you get 17 Republicans to change their view and convict on impeachment.”


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Biden’s comments come after Trump’s legal team published the former president’s response to the article of impeachment, arguing that the Senate does not have the jurisdiction to decide an impeachment trial as Trump is no longer president. The response also denied the former president “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States.”

“It is denied that President Trump incited the crowd to engage in destructive behavior,” the response says. “It is denied that the phrase ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore’ had anything to do with the action at the Capitol.”

More than 350 congressional staffers wrote a letter Wednesday imploring the Senate to convict Trump and describing the traumatic events that unfolded within the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“The former president broke America’s 230-year legacy of the peaceful transition of power when he incited a mob to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes. Six people died. A Capitol Police officer — one of our co-workers who guards and greets us every day — was beaten to death,” the letter says. “For our sake, and the sake of the country, we ask that [Senators] vote to convict the former president and bar him from ever holding office again.”

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: The House impeached Trump again -- here's what that means.

© Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

The House impeached Trump again — here’s what that means.

The House Democrats impeachment managers laid out their case to the Senate Tuesday, arguing the trial must go ahead “to protect our democracy and national security, and deter any future president” from provoking violence.

Trump is expected to stand trial beginning Feb. 9, where he faces a single impeachment article for incitement of insurrection, regarding his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol. To convict Trump, 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor. Just five voted with Senate Democrats against last week’s motion to declare the trial unconstitutional.

The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming President Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Biden was confirmed after the riot and later inaugurated, on Jan. 20. In a historic moment, 10 House Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of impeachment.

Dramatic pretrial events have seen Trump name a new legal team over the weekend; a vote by Republican senators to have the trial declared “unconstitutional”; and the presiding officer for the trial, Sen. Patrick Leahy, 80, briefly hospitalized for several hours last week after unspecified “tests.” While Leahy is set to carry out his duties, the hospitalization, along with these other events, underscore the unusual nature of Trump’s impeachment trial — both in terms of the timing and against the broader backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ll explain what we know about how the impeachment trial could progress, what it takes to convict or acquit, what’s at stake and where the situation stands now. This story continues to be updated with new information.

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Current schedule of Trump’s impeachment trial

The trial is scheduled to unfold as follows:

  • Jan. 25: Article of impeachment was presented to Senate
  • Jan. 26: Senators were sworn in, summons for Trump issued
  • Feb. 2: Trump’s answer to article of impeachment due
  • Feb. 8: Trump’s pretrial brief due
  • Feb. 9: House’s pretrial rebuttal brief due; trial begins

What would happen if Trump is convicted, or acquitted

If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote to bar him from running again (per the US Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would prevent a possible presidential run in 2024. This vote would only require a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if required.

Trump could also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents by the Post Presidents Act, including a Secret Service security detail, pension and yearly travel allowance.

According to the US Constitution, impeached presidents also can’t be pardoned.

If acquitted, Trump would have access to all the benefits of a former US president, including the option to run for public office.

What could happen during Trump’s impeachment trial?

The US Constitution lays out clear guidelines for impeaching a sitting president and other officers for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Trump’s trial is an unusual case, however. With his second impeachment, Trump, who as of Jan. 20 is a private citizen, is the first president to be impeached twice and the first to be tried after leaving office.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice would normally preside over the impeachment trial of a president. But because it’s not a trial of a sitting president, it will instead be presided over by Leahy, the new Senate President Pro Tempore, who as a senator is also still expected to be able to vote in the trial, too.

The House will prosecute the case, and the Senate will sit as jury and ultimately vote to convict or acquit. 

To convict Trump, 67 senators — or two-thirds of the Senate — must vote in favor. Following Biden’s inauguration, the Senate is now made up of 48 Democrats, two independents who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans, for an even 50-50 split.

Why was Trump impeached in 2019?

Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House, but the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020.

His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.

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