Under the trauma of the violent invasion of January 6, the US Senate officially opened on Tuesday (9) the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump with the posting of a video recalling the brutal attack on the US Congress .
From the plenary that served as the stage for last month’s tragedy, most senators have decided it is constitutional to try Trump even out of office, contrary to what his defense has argued.
The vote took place at the end of the afternoon, after four hours of debate, and the projection of the film of explicit violence by the prosecution. The footage has been touted as Democratic parliamentarians’ strongest evidence that Trump sparked the insurgency by trying to forcibly overturn the election result that led Joe Biden to the White House.
But that doesn’t mean Trump should be sentenced at the end of the trial, scheduled for early next week. For the constitutionality of the process to be approved, simple majority votes of the 100 senators were needed – and the score on Tuesday was 56-44.
As for Trump’s conviction, 67 out of 100 senators are to be found guilty, a highly unlikely scenario today in a completely polarized Senate.
Tuesday’s session began at 1 p.m. in Washington (3 p.m. Brasilia), with National Security Force agents protecting inside and around Congress.
Physical barriers and army trucks were also positioned near the Legislative Assembly headquarters, but there were no protesters at the scene and no incidents were recorded during the day.
In the corridors of the Senate, in addition to security guards, only authorized persons may circulate, including House officials and journalists.
At the start of the afternoon, members of the prosecution and Trump’s defense positioned themselves on both sides of the floor for the start of the session, with results already expected.
First, senators voted on the rules and procedures for the process, and then began a four-hour debate on the constitutionality of the trial.
Democrats anchored their arguments in the video on television screens in front of senators. The footage interspersed scenes of chaos and violence – in addition to profanity rarely heard in plenary – with Trump’s speech hours before the Jan.6 invasion, in an action that left five people dead.
The Republican has called on his supporters to go to Congress and “fight like never before” to prevent Biden’s victory from being certified, under the fanciful thesis that the November election was rigged.
Trump’s lawyers say the ex-president’s speech should be read as free speech, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that he should not be held responsible for the actions of a “little one.” group of criminals ”.
One of the former president’s supporters, David Schoen, called the process “pure, crude and mistaken partisanship” to further divide the United States.
“This trial is going to tear this country apart, maybe as we’ve only seen it once in our history,” said Schoen, referring to the American Civil War.
The prosecution, for its part, says the former president committed a “violent crime” and should be found guilty, even removed from office, of losing his political rights to no longer be able to run for the White House.
“You are asking how high crime and misdemeanor is under our constitution,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin (Maryland), one of the chief prosecutors, said after the video was released. Raskin was delighted to say his daughter was trapped during the attack and described how people were hurt and desperate that day.
“This is a major felony and misdemeanor. If it is not a reprehensible offense, it does not exist,” he added.
The Democrats’ video and speeches reflect the dramatic character the prosecution is trying to give to the trial. Biden supporters know Trump should be acquitted, but intend to make the process an institutional symbol so that events like January 6 do not happen again.
The Senate is now split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans – with a tiebreaker at the hands of Vice President Kamala Harris.
While there are moderate Republican senators who are fed up with Trump’s aggressive behavior, they know the party base has radicalized to the right and do not want to face the political cost of the raids on the former president in this moment.
Thus, it is very difficult for 17 Republicans to join the Democrats in condemning Trump.
From this Wednesday, the prosecution and the defense presented their arguments on the guilt of the former president, during sessions chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont). Each party will have until 4 p.m. to present their theses. Once this stage is passed, senators have the right to ask questions and the prosecution and defense can call witnesses – which is not yet clear if this will happen, since Democrats and Republicans, for different reasons, want to speed up the trial.
Democrats don’t want the extended trial to stand in the way of Biden’s proposed pandemic relief plan, while Republicans want to distract from the controversies surrounding Trump and turn this page.
Over the next few days, Democrats have promised evidence that threats to the lives of lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence on Jan.6 were even greater than is known, but have gave no details of what the new evidence would be.
The second Trump impeachment trial is surrounded by novelties: It is the first time that an American president has been tried twice by the Senate, once removed from office, and that senators have been eyewitnesses to the subject of the trial.
Just over a year ago, Trump was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and acquitted by a Republican-majority Senate.
Despite the roadmap to another acquittal, this time Democrats want to at least control the narrative of what they believe is the greatest stress on American democracy since the Civil War.