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10 key questions surrounding Trump's 2nd impeachment trial

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
·5 min read
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Former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial is set to begin Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where lawmakers in the Senate will decide whether to convict him on the charge he incited the deadly insurrection that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Here are 10 key questions heading into the trial, which is expected to last about a week.

Who are the House impeachment managers serving as prosecutors?

The impeachment managers appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Joe Neguse, D-Colo., David Cicilline, D-R.I., Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., and Stacey Plaskett, D-U.S. Virgin Islands.

What will the managers try to prove?

The article of impeachment passed by the House alleges that the former president “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol.” — The riot there left five people dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

The impeachment managers will focus on Trump’s actions and rhetoric, including the fiery speech he gave at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington falsely claiming that the election had been stolen.

While they are sure to highlight statements Trump made at the Jan. 6 rally, such as, “If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,” the managers will also lay out the case that Trump had for months been laying the groundwork for the violence by promoting false claims of election fraud.

“In all this,” the article added, Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

Donald Trump
Trump addresses supporters at his "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Who is on Trump's defense team?

The three lawyers representing the former president are David Schoen, Bruce Castor and Michael van der Veen.

Schoen, a Long Island, N.Y., defense attorney whose previous clients include Roger Stone, had also met with Jeffrey Epstein, reportedly to discuss taking on Epstein’s defense against accusations of sexually abusing dozens of girls. Days after that meeting, Epstein was found dead in his jail cell. His death was ruled a suicide. Schoen has promoted a conspiracy theory that Epstein may have been murdered.

Castor is a former district attorney from Pennsylvania who declined to charge Bill Cosby with sexual assault.

Van der Veen is the founder of a Philadelphia-based law firm that recently hired Castor.

What will their strategy be for defending Trump?

In a pretrial brief filed Monday, Trump's lawyers insisted that Trump was simply exercising his First Amendment rights when he disputed the election results.

They say the Senate is not entitled to try Trump now that he has left office, and that the trial itself is unconstitutional — a claim that Republican lawmakers are also expected to make on the trial's first day.

Trump's defense team also characterized the impeachment case against him as an act of “political theater” by Democrats looking to exploit the trauma of last month’s Capitol riot for partisan purposes.

Who is presiding over the trial?

Sen. Patrick Leahy. Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump’s first impeachment trial. But because Trump is out of office, the trial will be run by Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate.

The Vermont Democrat has dismissed critics who say he can’t both oversee a trial and be part of the 100-person jury that is the Senate.

“I’m not presenting the evidence,” Leahy told reporters. “I am making sure that procedures are followed.”

He added: “I don’t think there's any senator who over the 40-plus years I’ve been here that would say that I am anything but impartial in voting on procedure.”

President Trump
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Will there be witnesses?

Not likely. Democrats are reportedly leaning toward a speedy trial that will forgo witnesses and “rely more heavily on video,” according to the New York Times.

Will Trump testify in his own defense?

No. Raskin, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, sent a letter to Trump inviting him to provide testimony under oath, either in person during the trial or at a “mutually convenient time and place.”

Trump's lawyers refused Raskin’s request, calling it a “public relations stunt.”

What are the chances Trump will be convicted?

Slim to none. A two-thirds majority is required for a conviction. With the Senate evenly divided 50-50, at least 17 Republicans would have to join all the Democrats to clear that bar. And in a procedural vote held late last month, all but five Senate Republicans voted in favor of an effort led by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to dismiss the trial — making clear that a conviction is unlikely.

Trump supporters
Thousands of supporters gather for Trump's speech from the Ellipse of the White House on Jan. 6. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

What does the American public think?

According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday, a majority (56 percent) of Americans say they support the Senate convicting Trump and barring him from ever holding federal office again, while 43 percent say he should not be.

That's a remarkable shift in the public attitude compared to the time of Trump's first impeachment trial, when the same poll found 47 percent supported a conviction while 49 percent did not.

What does President Biden think about impeachment?

Biden has said little about Trump’s second impeachment, and the White House won’t say whether he believes the Senate should convict the former president.

Pressed by reporters again on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that position, adding that Biden “will not spend too much time watching the proceedings, if any time.”

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