U.S. senators voted Tuesday to proceed with Donald Trump’s trial on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol, rejecting a claim that the procedure was unconstitutional after watching graphic video of the January attack.
The Senate voted 56-44 to proceed with its trial of the former president, a historic first, and largely rejected along the lines of his defense attorney’s argument that a president could not stand trial after leaving the White House. Democrats hope to disqualify Trump from holding public office again.
The video, presented by the team of nine House of Representatives Democrats, warned images of the violence in the Capitol on January 6 with clips of Trump’s fiery speech to a crowd of supporters moments earlier, urging them to “fight like hell” to lift their November 3 election defeat.
Senators, who served as jurors, watched as screens showed Trump supporters throwing down obstacles and beating police at the Capitol. The video also included the moment when the police guarding the house chamber shot dead the demonstrator Ashli Babbitt, one of five people including a policeman who died in the crash.
The mob attacked police, sent lawmakers to climb to safety and suspended formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory after Trump spent two months challenging election results based on false claims of extensive suffrage.
“If it is not an accusation, then there is no such thing,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, who led the indictment, told the Senators after showing the video.
He cried when he told how relatives he brought to the Capitol that day to witness the election certification had to protect in an office near the floor of the house and said, “They thought they were going to die.”
Contrary to the Democrats’ emotional portrayal, Trump’s lawyers attacked the process, claiming that the process was an unconstitutional, partisan attempt to close Trump’s political future even after he had already left the White House.
“What they really want to achieve here in the name of the Constitution is to prevent Donald Trump from ever fighting for political office again, but this is an insult to the Constitution no matter who they target today,” said David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers. .
He condemned the “insatiable desire for prosecution” among Democrats before broadcasting his own video, which combined clips from various Democratic lawmakers demanding Trump’s prosecution against 2017.
Trump was indicted by the Democratic House on January 13 on charges of inciting an uprising, although his convictions are still unlikely.
Finding him guilty would require a two-thirds majority, which means that at least 17 Republicans would have to join the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents to vote against Trump, who is still his party’s most powerful figure outside of office.
Trump is the only president to go to trial in the Senate after leaving office and the only one to be charged twice. He is only the third president in US history to be charged at all.
The trial was held with extraordinary security around the Capitol after the siege, including armed security forces and a perimeter of a fence and razor.
Trump’s defense claimed that he exercised his right to freedom of expression under the first amendment to the constitution when he spoke to supporters before the Capitol attack.
“We can’t possibly suggest that we punish people for political speech in this country,” said Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers.
Castor said the storm at the Capitol “should be condemned in the most forceful terms”, but claimed that “a small group of criminals”, not Trump, were responsible for the violence.
Most legal experts have said that it is unconstitutional to have legal proceedings after an official has left office.
“Presidents can not strain the uprising in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened. And yet that is the rule that President Trump is asking you to adopt,” Democratic Representative Joe Neguse told senators.
Most of the senators at the trial were present in the Capitol on January 6, when many lawmakers said they feared for their own safety.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy called the Democrats’ speech “a very good opening.” He joined six of his Republican colleagues in finding the procedure constitutional and reversing his vote from the previous month.
“The arguments they gave were strong arguments,” Cassidy said.
The trial could provide clues as to the direction of the Republican Party following Trump’s tumultuous four-year presidency. A sharp division has arisen between Trump loyalists and those who hope to move the party in a new direction. Democrats, for their part, are concerned that the lawsuit could hamper Biden’s ability to quickly advance an ambitious legislative agenda.
A year ago, the then Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump on charges of obstructing Congress and abuse of power to pressure Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter in 2019.