WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. House formally presented the impeachment charge against former President Donald Trump to the Senate Monday evening, setting the stage for a second impeachment trial in the backdrop of President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.
Nine Democratic House impeachment managers carried the sole impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” across the Capitol late Monday evening, a rare and ceremonial walk to the Senate by the prosecutors who will argue their case. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) read the article of impeachment to the Senate.
Democrats hope that the strong Republican denunciations of Trump after the Jan. 6 riot would translate into a conviction and a separate vote to bar Trump from holding office again.
But instead, some Republican senators who will serve as jurors in the trial are rallying to his legal defense, as they did during his first impeachment trial last year.
“I think the trial is stupid, I think it’s counterproductive,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Fox News Sunday. He said that “the first chance I get to vote to end this trial, I’ll do it” because he believes it would be bad for the country and further inflame partisan divisions.
Trump is the first former president to face an impeachment trial, and it will test his grip on the Republican Party as well as the legacy of his tenure. The proceedings will also force Democrats, who have a full sweep of party control in the White House and Congress, to balance their promise to hold the former president accountable while also rushing to deliver on Biden’s priorities.
Arguments in the Senate trial will begin the week of Feb. 8. Leaders in both parties agreed to the short delay to give Trump’s team and House prosecutors time to prepare, and the Senate the chance to confirm some of Biden’s Cabinet nominees.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that he hopes that evolving clarity on the details of what happened Jan. 6 “will make it clearer to my colleagues and the American people that we need some accountability.”
Coons questioned how his colleagues who were in the Capitol that day could see the insurrection as anything other than a “stunning violation” of tradition of peaceful transfers of power.
“It is a critical moment in American history and we have to look at it and look at it hard,” Coons said.
An early vote to dismiss the trial probably would not succeed, given that Democrats now control the Senate. Still, the mounting Republican opposition indicates that many GOP senators would eventually vote to acquit Trump. Democrats would need the support of 17 Republicans — a high bar — to convict him.
When the House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, exactly one week after the siege, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he didn’t believe the Senate had the constitutional authority to convict Trump after he had left office.
On Sunday, Cotton said “the more I talk to other Republican senators, the more they’re beginning to line up” behind that argument.
“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said.
Democrats reject that argument, pointing to a 1876 impeachment of a secretary of war who had already resigned and to opinions by many legal scholars.
Ten Republicans joined the House of Representatives in voting to impeach Trump. A few GOP senators have agreed with Democrats, though not close to the number that will be needed to convict Trump.
Senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict Trump when the Senate acquitted the then-president in last year’s trial, appears to be an outlier.
“The article of impeachment that was sent over by the House suggest(s) impeachable conduct,” Romney, a frequent critic of Trump who voted to convict during the first impeachment trial, told Fox News Sunday. “It’s pretty clear that over the last year or so, there has been an effort to corrupt the election of the United States and it was not by President Biden, it was by President Trump.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said last week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote or argued any legal strategies. The Kentucky senator has told his GOP colleagues that it will be a vote of conscience.
McConnell also accused Trump of provoking the Jan. 6 riot.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said from the Senate floor last Tuesday. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s nine impeachment managers said Trump’s encouragement of his loyalists before the riot was “an extraordinarily heinous presidential crime.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., said, “I mean, think back. It was just two-and-a-half weeks ago that the president assembled a mob on the Ellipse of the White House. He incited them with his words. And then he lit the match.”
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