The trial of Donald Trump’s second indictment begins on Tuesday (9) with historic outlines and a clear signal on the future of the Republican Party.
The former president is set to be acquitted by the polarized U.S. Senate, in a lawsuit that says the most controversial leader in U.S. history still has significant power and influence over the acronym’s ranks.
The Senate is now split in two, with 50 votes for Republicans and 50 for Democrats – the tiebreaker is in charge of Vice President Kamala Harris, but in the event of impeachment, conviction only takes place ‘with the seal of 67 of the 100 senators.
Trump is accused of spurring the invasion of Congress on Jan.6, when his supporters attempted to forcibly overturn the election result that led Joe Biden to the White House. The action left five people dead.
Despite the negative repercussions of what was considered the most violent attack on the Capitol in 200 years, 17 Republican senators are unlikely to join Democrats in condemning Trump and withdrawing his political rights – which would prevent him from run for president again.
Even though there are moderate profile Republican lawmakers who have grown weary of Trump’s aggressive stance, the political calculation is meticulous in the face of numbers that show that much of the party’s base has radicalized towards right and is still rooted in Trump’s rhetoric. .
A poll released by the Associated Press last week shows 65% of Republicans say Biden was not legitimately elected president, echoing Trump’s false thesis that the November election was rigged.
Last year Trump had 74 million votes – down from Biden’s 81 million – but there are still doubts about how and even when he will continue to be the leader of the American far-right.
However, most Republican senators prefer not to risk losing this slice of electorate on the eve of next year’s legislative elections and therefore must save the former president.
The predictable outcome does not distract Americans from a judgment that must be symbolic and will leave traces on both sides of political advice.
Democrats, who control the White House, House, and Senate, know they shouldn’t get enough votes for Trump’s formal accountability, but they see the process as an institutional demonstration that an attack on Capitol Hill and American democracy cannot be repeated.
More: They want to leave Trump with the unprecedented mark of being the first US President to stand two House-approved indictments – in January last year he was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Biden supporters, in turn, urgently need to move forward with the trial – which is due to end in a week – because they know debates can still delay the president’s attempts to approve a program. emergency response as soon as possible.
On the Republican side, the rush is to bury the issue and highlight the divisions of the former president.
Shortly after the attack on Capitol Hill, some Republican senators even publicly blamed Trump, such as party leader Mitch McConnell.
In recent weeks, however, several lawmakers have aligned themselves with the ex-president, arguing that his remarks do not make him responsible for the violence and that there is no legitimacy in carrying out an impeachment trial of those who are no longer in office.
Republican Senator Roger Wicker (Mississippi) on Sunday (7) described the trial as “a party exercise in meaningless messages,” while his colleague Rand Paul (Kentucky) called the process a scam, “without possibility of conviction “. For Paul, Trump’s speech before the attack on Capitol Hill, inciting the crowd, was only “figurative.”
On Monday (8), Trump’s lawyers formalized the line of defense. In a 78-page document submitted to the Senate, they asserted that the impeachment process is a “political theater” against the Republican, that he has no responsibility for the attack on Capitol Hill and that the trial of a former president is unconstitutional.
They say Trump’s speech “did not order anyone to do illegal things” and deserves no blame for the conduct of “a small group of criminals.”
The main point of the accusation, in turn, concerns precisely the actions taken in public by Trump, such as his statements at a rally hours before the invasion. In front of his supporters this January 6, the Republican said: “If you do not fight for real, you will not have another country”.
Democrats plan to use videos to set an emotional and indignant tone during the trial, claiming Trump’s false account that the election was stolen is “solely responsible” for the attack on Congress and the weakening of the democratic electoral process.
Before hearing the arguments of the prosecution and the defense – each party must have until 4 p.m. to present its theses – the Senate must vote on the constitutionality of the trial.
Legal scholars say there are precedents for trying former officials and that the U.S. constitution does not preclude such proceedings.
If the simple majority of senators agree to move on, as planned, the trial begins. So far, multiple witnesses are not expected to be called – Trump himself has been invited, but he has declined to testify.
In the unlikely scenario of impeachment approval, with 67 votes in favor, there will be a second vote on whether or not to withdraw Trump’s political rights.
This veto must only be approved by a simple majority (51 senators) and, according to US law, it is not possible to revoke the political rights of the former president if he is acquitted on the first vote.
As of yet, no one can guarantee that the unpredictable Trump will actually show up for the White House in 2024, but the decision of most Republican senators to leave that possibility open is critical.
The case against Trump
What has already happened
A group of 210 Democratic lawmakers introduced the article of impeachment against Trump on Jan.11, in which the former president is accused of instigating an insurgency against the US government by spurring the invasion of Congress on Jan.6, when his supporters tried to turn the situation around to prevent the session. who would certify the victory of Joe Biden In just two days, on January 13, the president was impeached in the House, with 232 votes in favor of the prevention, including 10 Republicans The record time between the presentation of the article and his approval was made possible through agreements, such as not having to conduct an investigation or give depositions, as Trump has been accused of misconduct through public speaking and actions. On January 25, the House sent the article to the Senate, responsible for the judgment on Monday. (8), the defense of the ex-president presented its pre-trial report
The trial begins Tuesday (9) and is expected to be more nimble than the previous one, in 2020, which lasted about three weeks. Prosecutors leading the charge against Trump – made up of nine Democrats – expect the process to take about one week, as they plan to use little evidence, make succinct arguments so as not to distract the jury and substantiate the case primarily in videos of the January 6 action, according to The New York Times The Use of Images, possibly riots in towns under Democratic management, this must be the strategy adopted by the defense, which must rely on technical arguments Both the prosecution and the defense must each have 12 hours to present their arguments. Senate proceeds to vote, in which two-thirds of the house is needed (67 out of 100 seats) for Trump to be impeached
Understand the process
What does the prosecution say?
Trump swelled his supporters to invade Congress on January 6, when he said at a rally that day that “if you don’t fight for real you will not have a country.”
What does the defense say?
The ex-president did not order anyone to commit illegal actions, “he should not be blamed for the conduct of” a small group of criminals “, and the Senate” has no jurisdiction “to try an representative who has already left office because the Constitution does not explicitly state that this is possible.
Can Trump stand trial after he resigns?
Precisely because of the lack of precision in the Constitution, nothing in US law requires that the impeachment process be stopped after the president has left the White House. As has never happened in the country’s history, the case would likely go to court.
Who is presiding over the trial?
The process will be led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, 80, the dean of the House. In the previous case against Trump, the trial was presided over by John Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but since the accused is not the current US President, a senator can guide the trial.
What are the consequences of Trump if he is convicted?
The main flip side of the conviction is resignation from office, which has no effect since Trump has already left the White House. However, the ex-president also loses the right to a lifetime pension of US $ 219,200 (approximately R $ 1.2 million) per year. To lose political rights – and be barred from running in 2024 – another Senate vote is needed, in which a simple majority determines the issue.
Is he likely to be condemned?
No. In a vote at the end of January, with a tight margin (55-45), he blocked an attempt to dismiss the impeachment process as unconstitutional. The scoreboard indicated that the trend was towards absolution, showing little willingness from Republicans to condemn the former president – only 5 voted to continue the process.