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UPDATED, 2:18 PM: The second impeachment of Donald Trump is constitutional, according to the U.S. Senate. Though a conviction over Trump’s role in the violent attempted coup of January 6 is looking pretty unlikely at this point.
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Covered live on ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC World News, C-Span, CNN, MSNBC and more, the jurors voted 56-44 to move forward. Fox News did not cover the actual vote, instead choosing to go with anchor commentary from The Five.
“The Senate shall proceed with the trial as provide under the condition of that resolution,” Senate President pro tempore and Batman movies regular Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) declared Tuesday afternoon. Today mirrored an earlier vote on the impeachment that was 55-45. The addition in the impeachment column was Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana. Despite his harsh words against Trump in past weeks, Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted with the Trump defense.
With that, the Senate adjourned until Wednesday at noon ET for Day 2 of the trial. Expected to last until Presidents Day on January 15, 67 votes are need to convict the now ex-President — which means the Impeachment managers have their work cut out for them against a GOP refusing to stand up to Trump and his hardcore base.
The vote followed the pre-game show presentations from House Impeachment managers and Trump’s duo of meandering defense lawyers Bruce Castor Jr and David Schoen on whether the matter was in the right jurisdiction.
Coming after a sharp and vivid display from the House members, the recently assembled and clearly ill-prepared latter was best described by CNN’s Jim Acosta as “a hot mess …from start to finish.” Former Montgomery County (PA) D.A. Bruce Castor Jr. mind-numbingly admitted “we changed what we were going to do on the account that we thought the House managers’ presentation was well done.”
A change in plans that showed, embarrassingly so at times.
“Presidents are impeachable because Presidents are removable, former Presidents are not, because they cannot be removed,” David Schoen told the Senators in his long-winded presentation. As if he was trying to outdo Castor’s shambolic turn at the microphone, Schoen seemed to forget that Trump was impeached for the second time on January 13 – when he was still president.
Or as presidential historian and overt Trump foe Michael Beschloss tweeted:
The term “a Castor and Schoen” should make it into our language as a not-ready-for-prime-time legal duo that damages the client more than it helps.
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) February 9, 2021
Making the most graceful move he could, Rep. Jamie Raskin let the disastrous defense have almost the last word.
Surely resisting the tendency to laugh following Schoen’s bizarre reading of a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem as a closer, the lead impeachment manager noted that “nothing could be more bipartisan than the desire to recess.” Raskin then added that “we feel no need to make any further argument” about whether Trump’s latest impeachment is actually Constitutional. Rankin then handed over his allotted 33 minutes of rebuttal to the Senate and stepped away from the podium.
Huddled at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump probably was pulling out what little real hair he has left.
PREVIOUSLY, 11:32 AM: The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump has formally begun.
Carried live on all the cable newsers and broadcast networks starting just after 10 a.m. PT, the first portion of the tribunal of the former Celebrity Apprentice host for his role in inciting the murderous attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 will primarily be procedural.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he will not be watching the proceedings. However, if you thought there wouldn’t be any fireworks today out of the Senate, you might want to think again – it got hot and heavy pretty quick.
“What you experienced that day, what we experienced that day, what our country experienced that day is the Framers’ worst nightmare come to life,” said Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado on of the House impeachment managers, about the mayhem of last month.
Things started off on a low burn with prayers and the pledge of allegiance before Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan motion laying out the format and rules of the trial. With the exception of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), all 100 senators wore masks in the chamber this morning in accordance with coronavirus safety protocols.
Needless to say, as the roll call commenced, CNN and Fox News Channel went to commentary on the proceedings as their cameras stayed in the upper chamber. MSNBC stayed on the senators voting.
Trump was charged with a single article of impeachment last month for an “incitement of insurrection” against the federal government and “lawless action at the Capitol.” In that context, the main act was a four-hour argument over the constitutionality of impeaching a president who is now out of office.
Based on precedent and interpretation of the Federalist Papers, a wide swath of legal scholars agree that Trump can be put on trial. Trump’s defense team, supporters and would-be protégés rubbish that POV and want the trial over before it has truly kicked off; A number of GOP senators, like Paul, have argued there is no jurisdiction for the latest indictment against Trump.
On every major channel in the land, lead impeachment manager Rep Jamie Raskin of Maryland started his presentation today declaring their case is based on “cold hard facts, it’s all about the facts.”
In a move telling of how strategically the Democrats intend to prosecute the matter, the former constitutional law professor then played a feverish video of Trump on January 6 urging the MAGA mob to head to the Capitol and the siege of Congress as it was in the process of ratifying the Electoral College vote. With no small irony, a significant portion of the video was the speech that then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave that day savaging Trump’s attempt to contest the outcome of the election and Joe Biden’s clear victory. The there was more video of the mob inside the Capitol, chasing police officers as what sounded like gun fire rang out.
Here’s the video:
It was visceral, violent, scary, and, as more footage of the horrific events of last month were shown, it was scathing.
“If that is not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” said Raskin when the video concluded. Trump “wants you to believe the Senate is powerless,” he added.
After the House impeachment managers make their jurisdictional presentation today, defense lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr will have two hours of their own to try to kill the case out of the gate. Even in an evenly divided Senate looking to vote along party lines, Schoen, a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer from Alabama, and Castor, the former Montgomery County (PA) D.A. best known for not prosecuting the now-incarcerated Bill Cosby on sexual assault claims, are likely to come up short.
Following a vote on the constitutionality of the case, the trial proper will commence. A similar motion to hamper the impeachment failed 55-45 last week, with Utah’s Mitt Romney and nine other Republicans voting with the united Democrats.
However, with Trump not scheduled to be a witness, the math isn’t looking so good right now for an impeachment of the ex-POTUS. The Democrats needs 17 Republicans to join them, a figure that seems out of reach. A vote on Trump’s historical second impeachment is anticipated to come on Valentine’s Day or, ironically, on Presidents Day.
Before things even formally started in the Senate chamber on Tuesday, the impeachment managers filed one more pre-trial brief. The 33-page document hit back on Team Trump’s own filing that the 45th POTUS isn’t culpable for inciting the insurrectionists, putting the lives of then-Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress in harm’s way.
“President Trump’s pre-trial brief confirms that he has no good defense of his incitement of an insurrection against the Nation he swore an oath to protect,” the brief says (read it here).
“Instead, he tries to shift the blame onto his supporters, and he invokes a set of flawed legal theories that would allow Presidents to incite violence and overturn the democratic process without fear of consequences,” it adds. “His brief—in which he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions—highlights the danger he continues to pose to the Nation he betrayed. To send a clear message to the Nation and to all future Presidents that efforts to undermine our democracy through violence will not be tolerated, the Senate should convict President Trump and disqualify him from ever holding office again.”
“President Trump’s constitutional offense is a matter of public record that cannot be seriously disputed,” the brief bluntly states in surprisingly strong language for usually taciturn Democrats.
While Trump aims to throw his supporters under the legal bus, law enforcement is systematically rounding up ring leaders. Over 200 individuals have been charged for the assault on Congress last month. Among those snagged so far by the authorities are several current and former members of the military and the police, including at least one ex-FBI official.
Trump’s first impeachment ended in an acquittal on February 5, 2019, with Romney the only member of the GOP to vote against the then President.
Never one to hide his distain of his predecessor, the current President was curt in his perspective on the current impeachment.
“We have already lost over 450,000 people and we could lose a whole lot more if we don’t act and act decisively,” Joe Biden said at an Oval Office meeting with business leaders today to discuss Covid-19 relief. “A lot of people, as I have said before, children are going to bed hungry. A lot of families are food insecure. They are in trouble. That’s my job. The Senate has their job and they are about to begin it and I am sure they are going to conduct themselves well. That’s all I am going to say about impeachment.”
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