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US Senate Starts Former President’s Impeachment Trial

The U.S. Senate votes on the rules to govern the trial as it begins the second impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump on Feb. 9, 2021. (U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters)
US Senate Starts Former President’s Impeachment Trial
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The historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump started Tuesday in the United States Senate.

The House of Representatives impeachment managers opened with video from the deadly attack at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. Five people died, including a woman who was shot by police inside the building and a police officer who died the next day of his injuries.

The 13-minute video shows Trump claiming that he won the election and telling supporters, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.” The video also shows images of lawmakers in the Capitol Building. Lawmakers were meeting to confirm President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

The video includes scenes of the mob breaking windows and pushing past police officers to enter the building. As then-Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers left for safety, the rioters marched through the Senate chamber – the same place where senators will vote to decide if Trump is guilty of “incitement of insurrection” against the United States.

U.S. House lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) addresses the U.S. Senate
U.S. House lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) addresses the U.S. Senate

U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland leads the House impeachment case against Trump. He said, “That’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” and said, “if that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

Impeachment is the first step in the removal of a federal official from his or her office. The U.S. Senate is required by the Constitution to decide whether to remove an impeached president from office.

Raskin told about how he could not reach his own children that day at the Capitol. He talked about how others suffered and died. He said, "Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States.”

Attorney Bruce Castor, representing and defending former President Donald Trump
Attorney Bruce Castor, representing and defending former President Donald Trump

Bruce Castor was the first lawyer to represent Trump in his defense. In his opening statement Tuesday, Castor agreed that Trump had lost the election – a fact Trump never admitted.

“President Trump is no longer in office,” the lawyer said. “The object of the Constitution has been achieved. He was removed by the voters.”

Castor defended what Trump said to supporters as “political speech.” He argued that the former president has not been charged in any of the cases against the rioters. Reports say the U.S. government has charged more than 200 people with involvement in the Capitol attack. More charges are expected.

Another member of Trump’s defense team said the impeachment trial is unconstitutional because Trump is out of office.

"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," he said.

Trump is the first president to be impeached two times. He is also the first to face an impeachment charge after leaving office.

In a document sent to the Senate before the start of the trial, the House said “President Trump’s incitement of insurrection requires his conviction and disqualification from future federal officeholding.”

A conviction would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate. That means at least 17 Republican Party senators would need to join the senate’s 50 Democrats and independents in voting against Trump.

Timothy Naftali is a professor at New York University and an expert on impeachment. He told the Associated Press, “In trying to make sense of a second Trump trial, the public should keep in mind that Donald Trump was the first president ever to refuse to accept his defeat.”

“This trial is one way of having that difficult national conversation about the difference between dissent and insurrection,” Naftali said.

Presidential impeachment trials have only been held three times before. All three, Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and then Trump last year, were found not guilty of the charges.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Hai Do reported this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

manager –n. someone who directs a specific effort

scene –n. part of a movie or video

insurrection –n. a usually violent attempt to take control of a government

achieve –v. to reach a goal

partisan –adj. strongly supporting one party over another

eliminate –v. to remove

disenfranchise –v. to prevent a person or group of people from having the right to vote as provided by law

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