LIVE COVERAGE: Senate opens Trump’s second impeachment trial
The Senate is opening its second impeachment trial for former President Trump on Tuesday afternoon — this time with Trump an ex-president residing at his estate in Florida, not the White House.
The trial centers on whether Trump incited a mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers who at the time were certifying President Biden’s Electoral College win over Trump.
Five people died in connection to the riot, including a Capitol Hill police officer. The crowd was seeking to stop the Electoral College count after weeks of Trump and his allies arguing massive fraud contributed to his loss — without providing any evidence that supported those arguments in court.
Follow along for live updates on the opening day below.
Trump lawyer Schoen closes opening arguments with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem
Trump’s defense lawyer David Schoen closed his opening statement during the impeachment trial with a work by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Schoen cited a portion of Longfellow’s 1849 poem “The Building of the Ship,” saying it came “at a time fraught with division” from one of former President Lincoln’s favorite poets.
“The message from that other time of division is a call for hope and unity to bring strength that has special meaning today,” Schoen said before reciting part of the poem.
“Sail forth into the sea, O ship!” he began. “Through wind and wave, right onward steer! The moistened eye, the trembling lip, Are not the signs of doubt or fear.”
“Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!” he said reading the last lines of the poem. “Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee, Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o’er our fears, Are all with thee, — are all with thee!”
Schoen left the podium after concluding the poem.
Before reciting Longfellow’s work, the former president’s attorney also cited a quote from Lincoln.
“Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong,” he said, quoting the former president’s 1854 speech.
“In both cases you are right,” Schoen continued. “In both cases you oppose the dangerous extremes. In both you stand on middle ground and hold the ship level and steady. In both you are national and nothing less than national.”
Senate votes trial constitutional; Six Republicans vote ‘yes’
The Senate rejected an attempt on Tuesday to derail Trump’s impeachment trial by declaring it unconstitutional.
Senators voted 56-44 on the question of the trial’s constitutionality, falling short of the simple majority needed to grind the proceedings to a halt.
Six GOP senators joined Democrats to say they believe the trial is constitutional, largely mirroring a similar vote from late last month.
Only Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who had previously supported an effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would have declared the trial unconstitutional, flipped and said on Tuesday that he believes it is constitutional.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) previously voted to say the trial was constitutional and voted the same way on Tuesday.
The vote underscores the uphill battle Democrats face to get 17 GOP senators needed to convict Trump.
Trump lawyer says John Roberts’s absence created conflict of interest for Democrats
Trump impeachment lawyer David Schoen argued that Chief Justice John Roberts’s absence from the Senate trial created a conflict of interest for Democrats that has effectively eroded Trump’s rights as a defendant.
Roberts’s decision not to serve as the trial’s presiding officer led to the selection of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for the role. In addition to presiding over the proceeding, Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Democratic Conference, is also expected to cast a vote on Trump’s conviction.
Schoen argued that Leahy’s dual role amounted to a conflict of interest, and one that had produced a “tangible detriment” to Trump’s right “to a conflict free, impartial presiding officer.”
Leahy, for his part, has vowed to administer “impartial justice.” The presiding officer’s role is also mostly ceremonial and his rulings can be overridden by a Senate vote.
Roberts was constitutionally required to preside over Trump’s first impeachment trial because Trump was then still the sitting president. In the run-up to the second trial, Roberts was again offered the job but turned it down, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
During his argument before the Senate, Schoen went on to claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had intentionally delayed the transfer of the impeachment article to the Senate so that Roberts would not be required to preside.
But as The Hill previously reported, Republicans were at least partly to blame for the trial starting after Trump left office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office in mid-January would not agree to reconvene the Senate before Jan. 19 to allow an impeachment trial before Trump had exited the White House.
Trump team argues a former president cannot be impeached
Trump attorney David Schoen argued that the Constitution specifically states that only the current president can be convicted at an impeachment trial.
Schoen argued that because the penalty for conviction is removal from office, a former president cannot be tried and convicted.
“Presidents are impeachable because presidents are removable, former presidents are not because they cannot be removed,” Schoen said. “Impeachment trials are reserved for the sitting president of the United States…and the judgment required is removal from office.”
Schoen also pointed to Article II Section 4 of the Constitution, which states “the president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Trump’s defense lawyer said that there can be only one president at a time, and that the founders were precise in their language about who can be impeached.
Democrats argued earlier that there is no loophole that would allow presidents to commit high crimes and misdemeanors shortly before they leave office that absolves them from responsibility for their actions.
They also pointed to Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution which states without caveat that the “Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.”
Trump lawyer Schoen says country ‘cannot possibly heal’ through impeachment trial
Former President Trump’s lawyer David Schoen said that the country “cannot possibly heal” through his impeachment trial in the Senate.
As part of the defense’s opening remarks, Schoen countered the House impeachment team’s argument that Trump’s conviction is needed in order for the country to come together after the Jan. 6 raid on the Capitol, which they say he incited.
“They say you need this trial before the nation can heal, that the nation cannot heal without it,” Schoen said. “I say, our nation cannot possibly heal with it.”
“With this trial, you will open up new and bigger wounds across the nation, for a great many Americans see this process for exactly what it is, a chance by a group of partisan politicians, seeking to eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene and seeking to disenfranchise 74 million plus American voters, and those who dare to share their political beliefs and vision of America,” he continued.
“They hated the results to the 2016 election and want to use this impeachment process to further their political agenda,” Schoen added.
Trump attorney plays video of Democrats calling for Trump impeachment
Trump impeachment attorney David Schoen showed a video montage of multiple House Democrats calling for the former president to be impeached as early as 2017 to prove why the current impeachment proceedings are strictly political.
Speaking after fellow Trump attorney Bruce Castor, Schoen argued that Trump was denied due process prior to his House impeachment on Jan. 13 as a “function of the insatiable lust for impeachment in the House for the past four years.”
He then showed the montage which included current leading impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in January 2017 suggesting that he may be voting to impeach Trump.
“I want to say this about Donald Trump, who I may well be voting to impeach,” Raskin is heard saying in the video.
The montage includes multiple other Democratic lawmakers — including Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.), Al Green (Texas), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) calling for Trump’s impeachment.
The video also included the notorious 2019 quote from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.): “We’re going to impeach the motherf—-r!”
Schoen also accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of threatening to impeach Trump if former Vice President Pence didn’t invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him as a “political opportunity to score points against the outgoing then- President Trump.”
Trump lawyer argues impeachment is politically motivated
Trump’s attorney Bruce Castor opened his defense on Tuesday by arguing the impeachment trial is explicitly political and an effort by Democrats to ensure they never have to face Trump in an election again.
“Let’s understand why we’re really here,” Castor said. “We’re really here because the majority of the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political candidate in the future.”
If Trump is convicted in the Senate by a two-thirds majority, it would then only require a bare majority vote to bar him from ever running for office again.
Castor accused Democrats of taking the easy way out and of infantilizing ordinary Americans, who he said had already handled the matter by voting Trump out of office.
“The American people just spoke and just changed administrations,” Castor said.
The president’s attorney had a long wind up, praising the Democratic House managers for their eloquent and emotional arguments and giving a historical assessment about democracy stretching back to ancient Greece.
Raskin delivers emotional account of his personal experience during the riot
Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the lead House Democratic impeachment manager, became emotional while presenting the case against former President Trump in Tuesday’s impeachment trial as he recounted his own personal experience in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
He had invited his daughter, Tabitha, and son-in-law, Hank, to join him to watch the Electoral College proceedings a day after his family buried his late son, Tommy.
But Raskin was separated from them at the time that rioters breached the building. They were in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office while Raskin was still on the House floor.
“I couldn’t get out there to be with them in that office,” Raskin said. “And all around me, people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones, to say goodbye.
“And then there was a sound I will never forget: the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram. The most haunting sound I ever heard and I will never forget it,” Raskin said, shaking his head.
Raskin’s daughter and son-in-law were barricaded in Hoyer’s office for more than an hour before police rescued them. Eventually they were reunited and he recounted apologizing to his daughter.
“I told her how sorry I was and I promised her that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me. And you know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol,'” Raskin said, breaking down in tears.
“Of all the terrible, brutal things I saw and I heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest,” he said. “That, and watching someone use an American flagpole, the flag still on it, to spear and pummel one of our police officers ruthlessly, mercilessly. Tortured by a pole with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life.”
“Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America,” Raskin said.
Trump attorney says Capitol violence must be “vigorously” denounced
Trump’s impeachment attorney Bruce Castor opened his defense by nodding to the emotional testimony presented by Democrats and stating that the Jan. 6 siege must be “vigorously” denounced.
Castor applauded the “outstanding presentation from our opponents” and the “emotion that welled up” from House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), while making clear that no one on Trump’s team condoned the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
“You will not hear any member of the team of President Trump do anything but denounce the violence of the rioters that breached the Capitol, the citadel of our democracy,” Castor said.
“You’ll never hear anyone represent former President Trump say anything at all other than what happened on Jan. 6 in the storming and breaching of the capitol should be denounced in the most vigorous terms, nor that those responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent that our laws allow,” he added.
However, Castor said that the natural instinct for lawmakers was to pin the blame on one person and that this had led them to overzealously push to convict Trump for incitement.
“There was a terrible outcry and the public reacts with a desire that someone pay because something really bad happened, and that’s a natural reaction of human beings because we are generally a social people,” Castor said.
“It’s natural to recoil an immediate thing, it comes over you without your ability to stop it — the desire for retribution, who caused this awful thing and how do we make them pay?” he said.
— Jonathan Easley
Biden says he won’t watch Trump impeachment trial
House impeachment manager Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said that “things could’ve been much worse” when the mob of pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol.
Cicilline’s remark came during a speech from the Senate floor arguing why the Senate has the ability to hear the impeachment trial of the former president.
“This was a disaster of historic proportion, it was also an unforgivable betrayal of the oath of office of President Trump, the oath he swore, an oath that he sullied and dishonored to advance his own personal interests,” Cicilline said.
“And make no mistake about it, as you think about that day, things could have been much worse,” he said.
Cicilline also displayed Trump’s tweet after the riot, in which urged the protesters, which he referred to as “great patriots” to “Go home with love & in peace.”
“Every time I read that tweet, it chills me to my core,” Cicilline said. “The president of the United States sided with the insurrectionists, he celebrated their cause, he validated their attack, he told them ‘remember this day forever.’ ”
Democrats make the case for legality of impeaching a former president
House impeachment managers laid out their case for arguing it is legal to impeach a former president.
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) pointed to historical examples of officials being impeached and convicted once they left office, including former Sen. William Blount (Tenn.), who was the first person in U.S. history to be impeached.
Blount was convicted by the Senate after he left office for conspiring to sell Florida and Louisiana to the British in the late 1700s. Former War Secretary William Belknap was impeached after he resigned amid a kickbacks scandal.
Neguse also pointed to past analysis from libertarian scholar Jonathan Turley, who is advising Republicans on impeachment. The Colorado lawmaker said that Turley once wrote, “Resignation from office does not prevent trial on articles of impeachment.”
And Neguse cited Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution, which states without caveat that “the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.”
Trump’s team plans to argue it is unconstitutional to try a former official.
They have pointed to Article 1 of the Constitution that states: “Judgement in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor.”
Trump’s attorneys say that the use of the word “and” means that disqualification can only happen if someone can also be removed.
And they’ll point to Article 2, Section 4, of the Constitution, which states that: “The president, vice president and all civil officers of the US shall be removed from Office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“Trump’s interpretation doesn’t square with history originalism or textualism,” Neguse said. “The argument Trump asks you to adopt is not just wrong it’s dangerous,” he added.
— Jonathan Easley
Impeachment managers present dramatic new video of mob attacking Capitol
House impeachment managers showed a dramatic new video of the mob storming the Capitol in the opening minutes of Trump’s impeachment trial.
Democrats created the disturbing video documenting the Jan. 6 siege by interweaving Trump’s address to a group of supporters calling on them to march on the Capitol with violent footage of the attack.
“We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones … we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country,” Trump says in the video.
The video then shows new footage of the pro-Trump mob shouting “take the Capitol,” engaging in violent confrontations with police officers and damaging the building as they flooded the hallways looking to disrupt the vote certification.
House impeachment managers introduce video evidence as part of their case against Donald Trump, depicting one of the darkest days in American history. pic.twitter.com/7G2Jf1PEnQ
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) February 9, 2021
Text at the end of the video reads: “At least seven people lost their lives, more than 140 law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries, and many more have been severely impacted by their experiences that day.”
— Jonathan Easley
Senate approves organizing resolution for Trump impeachment trial
The Senate has adopted the organizing resolution for former President Trump’s impeachment trial.
The resolution, which was approved in an 89-11 vote, lays out the timeline for the impeachment trial, which could wrap as soon as early next week.
“It is agreed to by the House managers, the former president’s counsel, and is co-sponsored by the Republican leader. It is bipartisan. It is our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair … impeachment trial,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Monday that they had reached a deal on how to organize the trial.
Under the resolution, the Senate will hold up to four hours of debate on Tuesday about whether the trial is constitutional. The Senate previously voted to set aside a similar question late last month, with five Republicans siding with Democrats.
White House says Biden won’t opine on trial
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday said President Biden would not be weighing in on the arguments from either side in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, reiterating the administration’s stance that it will take a hands-off approach to the proceedings.
“Joe Biden is the president, he’s not a pundit. He’s not going to opine on the back-and-forth arguments, nor is he watching them, that are taking place in the Senate,” Psaki said during the daily White House press briefing when asked about Trump’s planned legal strategy that in part cites examples of Democrats calling for supporters to confront Trump officials.
Psaki also dodged questions about whether Biden is concerned the arguments about the constitutionality of trying a former president could set a dangerous precedent, pointing to Biden’s past statement that he supported the impeachment process moving forward.
“This is obviously a big story in the country,” Psaki said. “No one is denying that here … but our focus and the president’s focus is on putting people back to work, getting the pandemic under control, and that means we’re not going to weigh in on every question about the impeachment trial, and we don’t feel it’s necessary or our role to do that.”
The White House has been steadfast in its commitment to avoid chiming in on Trump’s trial. Psaki has repeatedly declined to outline the White House’s position on Trump’s guilt or the mechanics of the trial, and Biden has deferred to the Senate when asked about the proceedings.
Psaki would not explicitly say if Biden felt Trump incited violence on Jan. 6 when his supporters stormed the Capitol, but said Biden ran for president in part because of concerns about Trump’s fitness.
— Brett Samuels
House prosecutors will use previously unseen video evidence of attack
The nine House Democratic impeachment managers will introduce video evidence in this week’s Senate trial that has not previously been seen, sources close to the Democratic managers’ team said Tuesday.
That revelation came during a call with reporters where senior staff to the House prosecutors laid out their strategy for convincing senators to convict Trump for inciting a deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“We plan to be succinct and to the point and nonrepetitive. The attack happened in plain sight. There is compelling, overwhelming evidence. It’s on video and elsewhere,” said one of the senior aides. “We plan to fully utilize all the evidence available in all the forums, including evidence that nobody has seen before.”
As The Hill previously reported, the managers plan to forgo any lengthy or abstract legal analysis that could bore the senators and the American public watching at home. Instead, they hope to use video and other available evidence from the attack to tell a compelling story of Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol.
“This is about the very serious issue of holding President Trump accountable, the most serious betrayal on a president ever, and ensuring that no president ever does it again,” the senior aide said.
“The managers are trying this case to move the hearts, mind, and consciousness of all 100 jurors and expect to prevail. In the end, that is what they’re doing to win this case, and they are confident of their mission,” the aide said.
— Scott Wong
House impeachment managers remain undecided on witnesses
The House impeachment managers still haven’t made a decision on whether to call witnesses to the Senate trial, which could prolong it for days.
Senators on both sides of the aisle are anxious to get Trump’s second impeachment trial wrapped up in a week, and some even hope it can be finished over the weekend, but a decision to call witnesses could prolong it well into next week, when the Senate is scheduled to be in recess.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday declined to say whether he wants to hear from witnesses, saying the decision is up to the House managers.
“It’s going to be the managers’ decision. They haven’t made a decision yet whether to call witnesses. There is a vote that will have to be made if they decide to call witnesses but I’m not going to prejudge. Let’s see what they decide to do,” he said.
If the Senate agrees to allow the House managers and Trump’s lawyers to subpoena witnesses, they shall first be deposed and the parties shall be allowed “appropriate discovery,” which could extend the trial by another week or more, depending on how many witnesses are called.
Trump’s lawyer David Schoen and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s closest Senate allies, have warned the defense will bring in an array of witnesses to respond to Democratic-called witnesses, which could extend the trial considerably.
— Alex Bolton
Impeachment trial to roll through the weekend
The Senate impeachment trial will be in session through the weekend after one of Trump’s attorneys withdrew a request to pause the trial between roughly 5 p.m. Friday and Sunday.
An updated version of the organizing resolution, circulated Tuesday, states that “unless shall have already voted on the article of impeachment” the Senate will be in session on Sunday afternoon.
It also deletes language in a previous version that would have suspended the trial after 5 p.m. Friday and through Saturday.
David Schoen, one the president’s attorneys, had sent Senate leadership a request over the weekend asking that the trial be delayed between roughly 5 p.m. on Friday until Sunday in order to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
But Schoen told Senate leadership and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who will preside over the trial, that he was subsequently withdrawing his request, citing concerns that it will delay the impeachment proceedings.
— Jordain Carney
Democrats respond to Trump, seeking to pick apart his arguments
House Democrats on Tuesday amplified their charges that Trump incited the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, accusing the former president of exploiting an angry mob to do his political dirty work — and then blaming them for heeding his own request.
In a 33-page legal filing, the nine House Democrats managing Trump’s latest impeachment trial ticked through the various defense arguments advanced by Trump’s attorneys in their own brief released a day earlier, then sought to pick them apart one by one.
“His brief — in which he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions — highlights the danger he continues to pose to the Nation he betrayed,” wrote the impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
The brief arrived shortly before the Senate was scheduled to kick off the trial phase of Trump’s impeachment, which begins Tuesday afternoon. The process is historic on two fronts: It marks the first time a president will face an impeachment trial twice in his tenure; and the first time that trial will occur after the president has left the White House.
On Monday, Trump’s defense attorneys laid out their case for why the impeachment charges should be dismissed.
First, they argue, Trump cannot be subject to impeachment because the Founders never intended that process to apply to former presidents. Second, they say Trump’s fiery rhetoric leading up to the Capitol siege is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech.
Democrats have rejected both defenses out of hand. In their latest filing, they reiterate their legal argument why Trump should be held accountable, both for his unsubstantiated claims that the election was “stolen,” and for encouraging his supporters who subsequently stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
— Mike Lillis
Impeachment expert cited by Trump lawyers says work was misconstrued
One of the country’s top impeachment experts said his work was badly misconstrued by Trump’s legal team in a Monday brief in which his team argued that the Senate trial is unconstitutional.
Trump’s lawyers relied heavily on the scholarship of Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt to bolster their case that the Senate’s jurisdiction over Trump ended when he left office.
Asked by The Hill if he believes Trump’s trial is in fact constitutional, Kalt replied: “Yes.”
“Zealous advocacy usually leads lawyers to squeeze all of the advantage that they can out of the evidence,” Kalt told The Hill. “But when lawyers quote the wrong people or cite sources for the opposite of what those sources actually say, it is never a good sign.”
Kalt was among a group of more than 170 ideologically diverse legal scholars who last month signed a letter arguing that the trial is constitutionally sound, which represents the consensus view among legal experts.
However, all but five of 50 GOP senators embraced the opposite view last month by voting to dismiss the post-presidency impeachment trial on constitutional grounds.
— John Kruzel