Impeachment trial live coverage: Senate allows witnesses to be called. Vote pushed past Saturday schedule?

February 13, 2021 0 By boss


Trump impeachment

Closing arguments in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump will start Saturday.

James Martin/CNET

The fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is now under way, with House managers making a surprise announcement Saturday morning to call a witness over Zoom. Prosecutors moved to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler after the congresswoman last night released a statement about a conversation she’d had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, during which she claims McCarthy told her Trump had expressed sympathy for the rioters during the insurrection on Jan. 6.

Trump’s legal team objected, saying they wanted the trial wrapped up Saturday, that any witness should be deposed in person and that the lawyers should be given hours to prepare.

The Senate voted 55-45 to allow witnesses to be called, with just five Republican senators voting with the Democrats. Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse were at the last minute joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham in the yes vote.

Both sides have yet to wrap up their closing arguments before the Senate votes whether to acquit or convict the former president. The trial is moving at a faster clip than expected, with the defense using just 3 hours for arguments on Friday. Both sides get up to two hours to make final arguments before the Senate votes, which could take place as soon as this afternoon.

Before adjourning Friday, the Senate voted unanimously to award Officer Eugene Goodman the Gold Congressional Medal for his bravery during the insurrection (seen here in video), which included leading rioters away from the Senate chamber where former Vice President Mike Pence was in the process of confirming Joe Biden as president.

How to watchImpeachment trial vote: How to watch and stream Saturday

During the trial this week, prosecutors relied on disturbing video footage showing the attack on the Capitol, as well as video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 and in the days and months leading up to that date. House impeachment managers additionally showed tweets where Trump lauded violent actions by his supporters in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

On Friday, the defense team used more dispassionate constitutional analysis to argue that the trial is a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights, as well as arguing that Trump’s rally speech was taken out of context and that Democratic leaders have used the same language in the past in calling on their own supporters to “fight.”

We’ve highlighted the biggest questions asked by senators below, followed by a recap of the most important arguments from the trial.

Trump impeachment

All eyes are on the historic impeachment trial this week.

James Martin/CNET

Senators’ key questions about Trump’s impeachment case

On Friday afternoon, the Senate was given up to 4 hours for questions, on both sides of the impeachment trial. Here are the biggest questions they asked and a summary, usually paraphrased, of their arguments.

When did Trump learn of the attack on the Capitol, and what did he do to stop the rioting and when? 

Defense: Without providing information from their client on what he did to stop the riot and when, Trump’s team argued that “there’s been absolutely no investigation into that” by the House impeachment managers.

Prosecutors: “This attack was on live TV on all major networks. He knew the violence was underway. He knew the severity of the threat. He knew Capitol police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and fighting for their lives against thousands of insurgents with weapons,” they argued. “Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attacks for 2 hours after the attacks began? Why did President Trump do nothing to help the Capitol and law enforcement?”

If the attack was predictable and foreseeable, why were Capitol Police caught off guard and why did calls to activate the National Guard go unheeded for hours?

Defense: Law enforcement and the mayor of Washington, DC, were forewarned and should have been prepared.

Prosecutors: The president was the most responsible for what happened on Jan. 6 and had the most prior knowledge of the attack, but instead of preparing law enforcement he “cultivated” the violence. Also, the mayor of DC doesn’t have the jurisdiction to activate the National Guard.

Why is Trump’s video telling rioters to “go home in peace” relevant?

Prosecutors: The Capitol had been stormed by rioters with weapons, people had been yelling “Hang Mike Pence,” others had gone after Speaker Pelosi and the carnage had been broadcast on TV for hours — if this wasn’t what Trump wanted, why did he then commemorate the day by saying “Remember this day forever” unless it was something to praise, not condemn? He gave no reassurances to the people during this tweet.

Should there be a “January exception” to a president’s conduct?

Prosecutors: This would invite presidents and civil officers to “run rampant” in their last few weeks in office because they could never be held accountable.

Is this trial just for show?

Defense: That is what Trump believes.

If Trump is not convicted, what message does that send?

Prosecutors: The world is watching to see what we do, and decisions like this will define what America is.

Recap of the impeachment case against Trump 

Here’s the key evidence the House managers presented this week.

Previously unseen riot footage showing the attack on the Capitol, including security footage as well as models showing where rioters were in relation to senators.

Video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to storm the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6. Video clips of the siege included chants threatening violence against Pence and members of Congress, as well as false claims about the election. Trump deliberately used false claims about election fraud, the House managers said, to “trigger an angry base to ‘fight like hell‘” to overturn a legitimate election.

Video and social media postings from supporters attending Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 prior to the Capitol riot, used in an effort to prove causation between Trump’s remarks at the rally and the rioters’ actions.

Footage from Trump rallies from 2016 and 2017, in which Trump urged supporters to attack protesters at the events and praising the assaults, which the House managers said showed a pattern of supporting violence. They also pointed to Trump tweeting praise when supporters tried to run a Biden-Harris campaign bus off the road in Texas in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

Statements made by Trump following the attack demonstrated a lack of remorse and refusal to be held accountable, which sends a message to future presidents that there is no consequence to inciting an insurrection, if the Senate doesn’t vote to convict, the House managers argued. At least 16 administration officials resigned in the days following the riot, managers added.

Acquitting Trump could lead to political consequences, they said. They also highlighted the high cost to state and federal governments of preparing for — and recovering from — what they called “President Trump’s mob,” and the emotional toll taken on Congressional members, staff and workers by the riot. 

The First Amendment doesn’t prevent you from facing consequences for your words, Raskin said Thursday, especially when you hold the highest leadership position in the nation. “There’s nothing in the First Amendment … that can excuse your betrayal of your oath of office,” Raskin said. “It’s not a free-speech question. [It’s] the greatest betrayal of a presidential oath in the history of America.”

Recap of Trump’s defense strategy

Analysis of the Constitution was used on Day 1 to suggest that the impeachment trial is without merit. The trial is unconstitutional and a violation of Trump’s rights, the defense argues, saying, “Mr. Trump’s speech deserves full protection under the First Amendment.”

Social media posts and video clips from Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and other events that the defense attorneys said demonstrate that the House impeachment managers “manipulated” video and remarks used in their presentation to make their case.

Trump’s remarks encouraged “peaceful and patriotic protests,” his lawyers argued on Day 4, rather than a violent overturn of the results of the election, as House trial managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin had claimed in the first three days of the trial. “We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur because his long-standing hatred for violent protesters and his love for law and order is on display, worn on his sleeve, every day that he served in the White House,” lead Trump lawyer Bruce Caster said Friday afternoon.

The violence was premeditated and preplanned, and therefore Trump’s Jan. 6 rally speech did not cause the riot at the Capitol, it was argued. Claiming Trump’s speech has been taken out of context and that his use of the word “fight” was metaphorical, Caster said rioters had already broken through barriers into the Capitol before Trump had finished speaking.

What happened does not fit the definition of an insurrection since no government was overthrown, Castor argued.

Impeachment video clips that contrast remarks from Trump with those of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders and commentators that Trump’s defense team says shows the Democrats’ “reckless, dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric in recent years.”

Impeachment trial vote on Saturday

Trump’s second impeachment trial was originally going to pause from Friday at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT) until Sunday afternoon, if the trial hadn’t wrapped up by then. But a vote to acquit or convict could come as soon as Saturday or Sunday if no delays arise, such as a call for witnesses or documents. Here’s more information about the current impeachment trial schedule and where to watch the impeachment trial on Day 4.

What happens if the Senate convicts or acquits Trump

If the Senate votes to convict the former president, it will hold an additional vote to bar him from running again (per the US Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would preclude a possible presidential run in 2024. This vote would require only a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris serving as president of the Senate would cast a tie-breaking vote, if required.


Brett Pearce/CNET

Trump could also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents by the Post Presidents Act, including a Secret Service security detail, pension and yearly travel allowance.

According to the US Constitution, impeached presidents also can’t be pardoned.

If acquitted, Trump would have access to all the benefits of a former US president, including the option to run for public office.

Read more: Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial: Here’s what could happen

Trump’s first impeachment in 2019

Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House, but the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020.

His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.


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