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Senate declares Trump’s impeachment constitutional, begins proceedings

The first test was about the constitutionality of the trial. It was Trump's lawyers versus Democrat impeachment managers. The vote came after hours of arguments.

Published: Feb 10, 2021, 11:34 AM(IST)

The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump began on Tuesday with the US Senate declaring it constitutional with a 56-44 vote.

“On this vote, the yeas are 56, the nays are 44 and pursuant to res. 47, the Senate having voted in the affirmative on the foregoing question, the Senate should proceed with the trial as provided under the provisions of that resolution,” Patrick Leahy, presiding Senator, announced.

The first test was about the constitutionality of the trial. It was Trump’s lawyers versus Democrat impeachment managers. The vote came after hours of arguments.

Trump’s lawyers said the trial was not constitutional because he is out of office, while the Democrats pointed to precedent and the opinions of many legal scholars, including conservatives, who said the trial is valid.

“The section I read [referring to US constitution] ‘judgment’ – in other words, the bad thing that can happen, the judgment – ‘in cases of impeachment’ – i.e., what we are doing – ‘shall not extend further than removal from office.’ What is so hard about that? Which of those words are unclear? ‘shall not extend further than removal from office’. President Trump is no longer is in office. The object of the constitution has been achieved. He was removed by the voters,” Bruce Castor, Trump’s defense attorney said.

Attorney Bruce Castor added that the real reason behind House of Representatives wanting to convict Donald Trump was because they do not wish to see him as a political rival in the future.

Castor added that the storming of the Capitol “should be denounced in the most vigorous terms” and the rioters should be prosecuted. The defense contention reflected that “a small group of criminals” – not Trump – were responsible for the violence.

The impeachment managers managed to pick up one vote from Republicans  Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Senator who blamed Trump’s lawyer for bad performance.

Two weeks ago he had voted in favour of an effort to dismiss the trial, but on Tuesday he voted with Democrats to move forward, which came across as an unprecedented move.

Cassidy joined Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and others for dismissing the Trump team’s claims.

“I said, I’d be an impartial juror. Anyone listening to those arguments, the house managers were focused, they were organized, they relied upon both precedent, the constitution and legal scholars. They made a compelling argument. President Trump’s team were disorganized, they did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand and when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed by their arguments,” Senator Bill Cassidy said.

A graphic video showing the former president egging a rally crowd to march to the capitol and “fight like hell” against his re-election defeat and images of the attack on Congress came soon after – all were showcased as the trial opened on Tuesday.

The trial is expected to be fast with each side having upto 16 hours to make their case and final vote on whether to convict or acquit Donald Trump could take place early next week.

The timeline would make it the fastest impeachment trial for a president in American history.

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