The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump ended just before 4:00 in the afternoon today after just five days in session. The final tally was 57 votes that the former president was guilty, 43 not guilty, making it the most bipartisan vote to convict a president in any modern impeachment. The 57-43 result, however, was still 10 votes short of the 2/3 majority needed to convict the former president and, as a result, Trump was acquitted for the second time in barely a year.
The remarkable speed of the trial—even when it started this Tuesday, the expectation was it would take at least to Monday—was almost knocked off its rails this morning when the House Managers made a surprise request for a witness, Republican Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler. After a rancorous back and forth with the Trump defense, the possibility of calling witnesses went to a vote and, to the surprise of seemingly everyone, it passed, 54-46. And then, for 90 minutes, it was sort of chaos. So what happened?
Congresswoman Hererra Beutler issued a statement last night outlining a conversation relayed to her by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that happened during the insurrection. McCarthy, Hererra Beutler said, called Trump to ask him to call off the riot and, when they spoke says Trump told him, "I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." The statement was a piece of corroborating evidence, Lead House Manager Jamie Raskin said, and spoke to the then-president's "state of mind."
Trump's defense attorney Michael van der Veen, the only one of his lawyers to speak today, was indignant at the idea of witnesses and said that if the defense wanted call one witness then "I'm gonna need at least over 100 depositions" including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, for some reason, Vice President Kamala Harris. Those depositions, van der Veen said, wouldn't take place over Zoom, as Raskin had stipulated, but "in my office in Philly-delphia"—pronounced just like that—at which point dozens of Senators started laughing, prompting van der Veen to yell "I don't know why you're laughing!" and presiding officer Patrick Leahy to gavel for order. It was a moment.
The 54-46 vote to discuss witnesses saw Republicans Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Ben Sasse join all 50 Democrats, and seemed to take most everyone by surprise. Almost immediately Republican Senator Dan Sullivan asked a point-of-order over "what we just voted on," it was reported that Romney and Senator Ron Johnson got in an argument in their seats, and—just to add more confusion to everything—Trump confidant Senator Lindsey Graham then switched his vote in favor of witnesses as well. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called a recess and, for 90 minutes, various Senators, Trump's defense, and the House Managers all huddled up on how to move forward.
In the end it was all for, if not nothing, definitely not much. Looking to avoid an extended battle over witnesses, the two sides agreed on a compromise: instead of calling Representative Hererra Beutler to testify, both parties accepted that her testimony would be "consistent" with her statement and so her statement would be read by Raskin into the record. And, with that, a moment when it seemed like something truly unexpected might happen, reverted back to the expectation when the day began: a quick end to the trial.
Immediately after the witness request was resolved, closing arguments began. Both sides had up to two hours each to make their closing arguments, but—in the prevailing organizing principle of the entire trial—neither used their full time.
The House Managers used their closing arguments to restate their case that there has "never been a greater betrayal by a president," as Lead Manager Jamie Raskin put it, than when Trump unleashed a mob that laid siege to the capitol on January 6 in an attempt to stop the certification of his losing reelection bid. Multiple House Managers stepped through a brutal timeline of video clips and other documents from the sixth in order to make the final case that convicting the former president was necessary, as Representative Joe Neguse argued, because "the cold hard truth" is that by not holding Trump accountable, "what happened on January 6 can happen again." Neguse feared, he said, "that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning. This can not be the beginning. It can't be the new normal. It has to be the end."
Trump's Lawyer Michael van der Veen, a Philadelphia personal injury attorney, was on his own to make the former president's closing arguments. In doing so, he stuck to the same strategy exhibited yesterday: Just go nuts. Over the course of a 45 minute monologue, van der Veen said that "the act of incitement never happened," blamed Democrats for saying words like "fight," accused the House Managers of faking evidence, said that everyone was out to get his client, and, in a novel new line of attack, "it was month after month of political leaders and media personalities bloodthirsty for ratings glorifying civil unrest" last summer that lead the insurrectionists to believe that it was OK to storm the Capitol. But, finally, van der Veen argued, this was really just Democrats looking to create what he dubbed the "Raskin Doctrine": that "any speech made by Democrat elected officials is protected speech while any speech made by Republican elected officials is not protected."
Raskin used the last of the House's time to respond directly to van der Veen, saying if the Raskin Doctrine means "that a President of the United States can not incite violent insurrection against the Union and the Congress, then I embrace it, and I take it as an honor." Ultimately, Raskin said, "we’re defending the US Senate and the US House against a president who acted no better than a marauder and a member of that mob by inciting those people to come here. And in many ways he was worse: He named the date, he named the time and he brought them here. And now, he must pay the price."
In the end, the price would not be in conviction—the 67 votes necessary would have required 17 Republicans to vote against the former president, a long shot from jump. But seven Republicans—Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey—did join all 50 Democrats, making this the most bipartisan vote to convict in a presidential impeachment trial in modern history. It's not nothing, but let's be honest: it's also not much of something either. Stares.
So where do we go from here? For the Senate, they get back to work—the rules of an impeachment trial halt all other business in the Senate until the trial is over—approving cabinet picks for Biden, who became president just three weeks ago, and passing covid relief legislation. Fallout from the insurrection, still barely a month old, will continue as well. Over 200 insurrectionists have cases now pending and, through those cases, a "9/11-style commission" promised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the tireless work of investigative journalists, we are sure to learn significantly more about the events of January 6 and Donald Trump's role in them than we know now. But also we will see Trump reemerge, likely emboldened by the acquittal, free to run for office again so, well, there's that. Screams.
Trump's impeachment trial entered its fourth day today and encapsulated both Trump's entire defense and the question-and-answer period for Senators to pose questions to the House Managers and Trump's defense team. Combined, both of these stages of the impeachment trial were allotted up to 20 hours and three days. Instead, they were dispensed of in just over six hours. It made for a whiplash-inducing day, but also all-but-ensured that the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump will end tomorrow, Saturday February 13, just five days after it started, barring a surprise vote in favor of witnesses.
Donald Trump's lawyers used only about two and a half of their 16 allotted hours to mount a defense of the former president. It wasn't a lot of time, but it also wasn't much of a defense, focusing much more on attacking Democrats through the playing and replaying of video clips of prominent Democrats, media figures, and movie stars disparaging Donald Trump. What actual defense there was focused far more on procedural and constitutional arguments than on actually defending the former president's actions on January 6. For whatever they're worth, Trump's attorney's arguments broadly fell into a few main themes:
Nothing in the text of Trump's speech on January 6 could be "construed to be encouraging, condoning, or enticing unlawful activity of any kind," argued Michael van der Veen, a late addition to Trump's legal team who lead off the day. In fact, he argued, it was "slanderous" and a "monstrous lie" to say that Donald Trump wanted to interfere with the election certification happening at the Capitol on January 6 when he told the crowd assembled at his rally that they should "fight like hell" to "stop the steal" happening that day, because, van der Veen explained, he told them to do so "peacefully and patriotically." It was not the former president's fault that a "small group" "hijacked the event for their own purposes" and that Trump has been "entirely consistent" in his "condemnation" of all mob violence and his love of law enforcement. Stares off into the middle distance for a bit.
And, even if he had said things that had set off the "small group" that laid siege to the Capitol, the first amendment gave him the freedom to do that. The first amendment, and various rulings around it, allow for "a difference of political opinion expressed in a speech," said attorney David Schoen, who read large passages of Supreme Court decisions, interjecting occasionally to castigate people, unseen on screen, who apparently weren't reading along with him. But if Democrats "had their way" they'd choose to "ignore all of the constitution" in holding trials of political opponents. Would the Democrats "ignoring" of the constitution "include the sixth amendment, right to counsel?" asked the former president's counsel. "Who would be next?" Schoen asked, "it could be anyone." Blinks repeatedly.
But none of that really mattered because what this impeachment was really about was the "hatred" that Democrats had for Donald Trump and how they wanted to create a "constitutional cancel culture" bent on "silencing and banning the speech the majority doesn't agree with." Not only that, attorney Bruce Castor warned, Democrats wouldn't just stop there: they were set on "cancelling 75 million Trump voters" and "criminalizing political viewpoints." Stares at hands.
On top of all that, Trump's attorney Schoen argued, to manufacture a case against Trump, House Managers used "selective editing and manipulating visuals". What evidence did he use to back up this incendiary charge? He said that the House edited video of Trump's speech, leaving out parts that didn't help their case, which, stares. Beyond that, Schoen also focused on a news photo of one of the House Managers preparing a slide featuring a tweet that had the wrong date on it. While pointing out that the date was corrected by the time the House Managers showed it in their presentations, it was evidence, he said, of a "manufactured graphic," and called into question all of the evidence the House used. Help. Me.
But largely, Trump's defense played out in massive supercuts that can best be described as "Democrats saying things." In the two and a half hours of defense, tightly-edited video montages—some played multiple times—made up at least 30 minutes. The centerpiece of their many (many) montages was a full 10 minutes (really) of Democrats, CNN personalities, even Madonna and Johnny Depp (really) saying "fight." At times during the extended montage, it was just people saying that single word—"fight"—over and over again, like an outtake from the aversion therapy scene in A Clockwork Orange. Another montage shown at least twice contrasted Donald Trump, set to soaring strings, talking about how much he loved law enforcement intercut with Democrats talking about the Black Lives Matter protests last summer played against scenes of rioting and set to war drums. Another supercut showed four years of House Democrats calling for President Trump to be impeached. Yet another featured Democrats, including Lead House Manager Jamie Raskin, objecting to the 2016 election results. It was the ultimate whataboutism defense: if you say Donald Trump said things, how about we bludgeon you with an endless volley of you also saying things. Even when there was no video involved, the defense leaned on repetitive supercuts, like when counsel Bruce Castor read out loud every single time Donald Trump said "find" in his phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. It was numbing and repetitive but, in their defense, it did take up a lot of time. I live in hell.
Once the president's legal team had wrapped, the Senate pressed forward with the next stage of the trial: an opportunity for Senators to ask questions of both the defense and the House Managers in a highly-facilitated process done via written notes. In the president's last impeachment, this Q&A phase lasted two days and 180 questions were asked and answered. Today only four hours had been allotted for Q&A and Senators used about half of them to ask only 28 questions. Many of the questions were alley-oops from Democrats or Republicans to their respective sides, but some gave some insight into how potential swing votes might land and others hit on soft areas of the arguments put forward over the last three days:
Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two Republicans that may vote to convict the former president, asked the defense "exactly when" Trump learned "of the breach of the Capitol, what specific actions did he take to bring the rioting to an end, and when did he take them." Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said that he didn't know because "the House Managers have given us absolutely no evidence whatsoever to answer that question." Which was a curious way to answer a question that, one would assume, their client would know the answer to.
Collins later teamed with Mitt Romney, another Republican flagged as a potential conviction vote, to ask both the House Managers and Trump's attorneys if Trump knew that Vice President Mike Pence had just been evacuated from the Senate Floor when he sent a tweet out disparaging him. Joaquin Castro answered for the House, saying that Senator Tommy Tuberville confirmed to reporters on Wednesday that he was speaking with Trump right at the moment the Vice President was evacuated. Trump's counsel van der Veen deflected, saying that the question was "irrelevant" because the article of impeachment was about incitement and not, I guess, about imperiling Trump's own Vice President.
Bernie Sanders asked both sides if the House's prosecution was right, that the president had perpetuated a "big lie" that he had won the election in a landslide, or "in your judgement, did Trump actually win the election?" Van der Veen refused to answer, saying that "my judgement is irrelevant in this proceeding," and instead deflected by saying that "I hope everyone has been able to see the video" of Democrats contesting election results. I assure you David, everyone saw the video.
You get the gist. It went around like this for about two hours and 20 minutes before Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that there were no more questions on either side.
Immediately following the closure of the Q&A, both Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to capitol police officer Eugene Goodman, the officer widely credited for leading a mob away from the Senate chamber. For his bravery, Schumer said, "we can all agree that Eugene Goodman should be awarded the highest honor." A day that was defined by partisan arguments ended in both sides giving Goodman a standing ovation.
So what happens now? The original plan was that the trial would pause tonight and tomorrow to observe the Jewish Sabbath, as requested by Trump attorney David Schoen. Schoen has since rescinded his request and so the Senate is set to power through tomorrow where there will be presentations and a vote on whether or not to call witnesses—one hour per side is allotted but it's not known if either will make a call for witnesses—and then each side will get two hours to make closing arguments. If the trial isn't extended by a decision to call witnesses (again, most believe this won't happen) the vote to convict or not could happen before the end of the day tomorrow, which is just remarkably fast.
The House Managers ended their arguments today with about four hours of presentations that looked at the many repercussions of the January 6 insurrection as well as made an attempt to head off potential areas of attack from Trump's defense team, who will begin their arguments tomorrow. Where the House Managers' presentations yesterday offered a focused narrative that leaned heavily on the vivid reconstruction of the events of January 6 and what lead up to them, today was far less singularly focused.
The harm done by the January 6 insurrection commanded a good deal of the House Managers' arguments. Defining "harm" in a myriad of ways, the Managers painted a picture of the lasting damage done by the attacks :
Where yesterday House Managers used their own traumatic experiences to illustrate the harm of the attacks, today they focused on the law enforcement officers, custodial and foodservice staff, and congressional staffers that were at the Capitol that day. Marking the deaths of three officers, Representative David Cicilline also cited the "scores" of injuries to Capitol and DC police from "repeated blows from bats, poles, and clubs." Telling personal stories of a janitor who was locked alone in a closet for hours, a staffer that barricaded himself behind a door with a steel rod, and another still "haunted" by the sound of breaking windows, Cicilline worked to remind the assembled Senators that there were many people beyond their ranks that "faced mortal peril from the mob."
Representative Diane Degette focused on the harm done to our domestic security by "emboldening" far-right extremists in the aftermath of the insurrection. "The violence is only just beginning," she warned, saying that "new, violent coalitions have formed" because of what they perceived as their success at the Capitol. Those threats create other types of harm as well, she said. With thousands of National Guard troops now guarding the Capitol after the insurrection, Degette said that "this capitol has become a fortress" as have many state capitols around the country. That added security has resulted in not just a "loss of access," to capitols by the public, but a "dimming of freedoms."
Representative Joaquin Castro talked about the harms done to our country's reputation around the world and how the attacks have allowed countries like Russia, Iran, and China to "not only denigrate America, but to justify their own antidemocratic behavior." We've spent "trillions of dollars to build the strongest military in the world" to "prevent the kind of attack that occurred on this Capitol," Castro said. "The world is watching us and wondering whether our constitutional republic is going to respond the way it should."
House Managers then turned to demonstrating how former president Trump showed "no remorse" for the harms caused by the attack, and how this remorselessness for the violence he provoked is part of a "pattern, staring us in the face," according to Lead House Manager Jamie Raskin. To demonstrate that pattern, Raskin stepped through an extensive breakdown of the thwarted attempt to kidnap and execute Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer by a right-wing extremist group this summer and how, instead of condemning the attempt and the groups involved, Trump "further enflamed them by continuing to attack the governor." When the same extremist groups in Michigan stormed the capitol in Lansing, Raskin said, Trump once again didn't condemn, and instead "encouraged planning and conspiracies" to take over other capitol buildings. Trump's refusal to condemn the attacks in Michigan mirrored his repeated refusals to condemn the attack on the Capitol months later, Raskin argued. "These prior acts of incitement cast a harsh light on his obvious intent," and, by showing no remorse, he asked the Senators, "what makes you think the nightmare of Donald Trump and his mobs is over?"
Before closing their arguments, House Managers offered a collection of preemptive attacks on what they think the brunt of Trump's defense strategy will be.
This is just an attack on Trump's free speech. Trump was not just "some guy" at a rally, Raskin argued, he was the President of the United States, who had sworn an oath "that nobody else swears." When it "comes to the peaceful transfer of power, to the rule of law, to respecting election outcomes," Raskin said, a president "must choose the side of the constitution" because "there's nothing in the first amendment or the constitution that excuses your betrayal of your oath of office."
Trump didn't get due process in the House. Representative Ted Lieu explained that, as a former prosecutor, "when you see a crime in plain view" you don't have to spend "months investigating" before you bring charges, and so the House did not have to wait for an investigation. Beyond that, Lieu argued, "You're going to see a full presentation from the House, from the president's attorneys, and you're able to ask questions." As a result, Trump "is getting all process he is due right here in this chamber."
It's unconstitutional to try a former president. Raskin dismissed this out of hand, explaining that this had already been debated and settled with arguments from the House Managers and Trump's defense team and the 56-44 vote that happened on Tuesday. "We hope the defense will focus on the facts and not on the constitutionality which has already been decided," Raskin said. "They must let it go." Anyone wanna bet that that'll settle it?
Finally, after about 12 hours of presentations across yesterday and today, House Managers were ready to close their case to convict the President. The main brunt of their final argument was that the president's guilt was simply "common sense," Raskin said, channeling Thomas Paine. After watching hours of video of the attack and the president's actions that provoked it, "it's pretty simple," said Representative Joe Neguse, "he said it, and they did it." The evidence, said Neguse is "overwhelming" and, if his actions "go unanswered, who's to say it won't happen again." That final line was the second focus of the House Managers' closer: this wasn't just about punishing Donald Trump, but about preventing "any president—today, tomorrow, or any time in the future" said Representative Cicilline, "from believing that this conduct is acceptable."
Today was the first of two days that the House Managers have to make the case that former president Donald Trump should be convicted for "incitement of insurrection" by the Senate in Trump's second impeachment trial. Over the course of about seven hours of dense presentations by eight House Managers (the Representatives that fill the role of prosecutors in the trial), they methodically started to make their case, stepping not only through the insurrection of January 6th nearly minute by minute, but also the days, weeks, and months that lead up to it. Representative Joe Neguse characterized the Manager's approach over the next two days as taking three distinct paths: the provocation that lead to the attack, the attack itself, and the harm that followed. Today seemed largely to focus on the provocation and attack, one would expect tomorrow then to focus on the harm.
Dissecting the many stages of provocation that lead to the attack on January 6 took the first part of the day, as House Managers made the case that the speech Trump gave on the 6th was not the start of his incitement, but the endgame in what had been a "deliberate, planned, and premeditated" attempt to overturn the election that began many months before. Through heavy use of Trump's own tweets, speeches and interviews, the House Managers showed that Trump had been "planting the seeds" of what they called "the big lie"—that the election was stolen—as early as last spring. That claim continued through the summer and into the fall until, according to Representative Joaquin Castro, Trump "truly made his base believe that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged." Those false claims of election fraud, said Neguse were "the drumbeat being used to inspire, instigate, and ignite" his supporters.
That drumbeat continued through the election where, in the days after November 3rd, Trump tweeted to "STOP THE COUNT" and "STOP THE FRAUD" ("this is what it looks like when Donald Trump wants people to stop doing something," Castro noted, teeing up an argument for later). Following Trump's directives, his supporters, some armed, began showing up at vote counting locations to intimidate and disrupt election workers in order to "stop the steal," a refrain that would echo in the Capitol months later. Those mobs "didn't come out of thin air," Castro said. "They believed him, so they fought."
While mobs formed in swing states to "stop the steal," Trump pressed forward with an ever-escalating series of attempts to "retain the presidency," according Representative Madeline Dean including "ignoring adverse court rulings, pressuring and threatening election officials, attacking Senators and members of congress, pressuring the justice department, and attacking Vice President Pence." When each one of these attempts failed, said Representative Ted Lieu, "Trump's actions grew increasingly more desperate." Trump's final, desperate attempt was to intimidate Vice President Pence to refuse to certify the electoral college results on January 6 and, when Pence refused to do that, according to Lieu, "Trump ran out of non-violent options to hang on to power."
That meant Trump was back to the mobs he had been inciting to "fight like hell" against a rigged election since the spring and summer, argued Delegate Stacey Plaskett. Despite knowing that his supporters had used violence in the past, like attempting to run a Biden/Harris bus off a Texas highway (an incident Plaskett said Trump responded to by saying "these patriots did nothing wrong"), Trump began promoting the January 6th event in mid-December, promising that it would be "wild." Throughout 2020, Plaskett said, Trump "cultivated violence, praised it, and when he saw what they were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild historic event" (an event that Plaskett noted was originally permitted for January 22 and 23rd, after the Inauguration, until the White House got involved—stares).
Trump's rally on January 6 and the siege of the Capitol that followed occupied the next five hours of the House Managers' presentations. Leaning heavily on video from that day including security camera footage from the Capitol and radio distress calls from capitol police (neither of which had been publically available before), House Managers stepped through the entire insurrection, nearly minute by minute. The sometimes-graphic presentation was excruciating to watch from my couch at home, I can't quite imagine what it must have been like to be a Senator who had been witness to it just over a month ago. Which, certainly, was part of the point of House Managers in presenting it this way. But—as footage played with a map of the capitol superimposed to show the location of the insurrectionists, the Senators, the Vice President, and capitol police officers who helped to avert further disaster—it was a point effectively made.
Equally effective was House Managers use of their own experiences on January 6, underscoring the unique fact that every person presenting today, and nearly every Senator sitting as jury, was witness to the events as well. From Representative Eric Swalwell recounting that he texted his wife "I love you and the babies, please hug them for me," to Representative Madeline Dean breaking into tears as she recounted the sound of the "battering at the door" of the House chambers, nearly every Manager recounted their own experiences in the Capitol on January 6. It meant something when Representative Dan Cicilline said that the insurrectionists were "coming for us" because he meant literally every person assembled in the room.
One person not there today that House Managers said the mob was "coming for" was Vice President Mike Pence. They repeatedly portrayed the former Vice President as a "patriot" for fulfilling his constitutional duties in certifying the electoral college results for Joe Biden, and showed through harrowing video how the president turned the mob against him. When Trump tweeted at 2:24pm that day that Pence "didn't have the courage" to overturn the election results, Representative Castro showed footage of that same tweet being read by someone over a bullhorn, which was answered by shouts of "traitor." House managers showed surveillance camera footage of Pence and his family (who had accompanied him to the Capitol) being ushered out of Senate Chambers by secret service and revealed that insurgents "were 60 feet away" from the Vice President.
The day wrapped up with a final presentation on "what was happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue." According to House Managers, Trump sat at the White House "delighted" at what was unfolding on TV, doing nothing to stop it. When he finally, two hours into the attack, tweeted for his supporters to "support law enforcement," Representative Castro noted that even though those very law enforcement officers were "completely, violently" overwhelmed by the mob and needed help he "refused to send it." In fact, according to Castro, there's "no indication" that Trump was ever involved in finally mobilizing the National Guard. The only call into the Capitol that Trump was known to have made, said Representative Cicilline, was to Senator Mike Lee. The call was not to ask about how he could help, or how they were doing, but instead to ask him to continue to delay the election results (after the trial had ended for the day, in a confusing moment, Lee objected to this portrayal). When he finally made a video appeal to his supporters to leave the Capitol, four hours after the insurrection had begun, Trump praised them, saying that they were "very special" and that he knows "how you feel." The president never once told the mob to stop, never once condemned the attack. "On January 6," Castro said. "President Trump left everyone in this capitol for dead."Well then.
Donald Trump's second impeachment trial began in earnest today with just under four hours of presentations from the House Managers and the President's defense attorneys. The presentations were framed around arguments on whether or not it was actually constitutional to try a former president, but ultimately they served as opening volleys in the cases that each team would present over the next few days.
It's been predicted that House Managers would lean heavily on video shot on the day of the insurrection to make their case and they wasted no time in doing so today. Lead House Manager Jamie Raskin devoted the first 15 minutes or so of his presentation to a reel that presented a visceral timeline of the day of the insurrection, juxtaposing the president's words with the mob's actions. The video was harrowing, and the knowledge that all of it happened barely more than a month ago in the very halls and chamber that the trial was now taking place made it doubly so. It's a hard thing to watch, but worth devoting the time. (Source: CNN)
While much of Raskin's presentation focused on the insurrection and the president's role in it, Representative Joe Neguse spent most of his presentation making the case that there is precedent for holding an impeachment trial after a person is out of office, citing the impeachments of Senators William Blount in 1797 and Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876. Saying that a president inciting a mob in the waning days of his presidency was "the Framers' worst nightmare come to life," Neguse explained that "Presidents can’t inflame insurrections in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened. And yet, that is the rule that President Trump asks you to adopt." (Source: Denver Post)
While Neguse made the constitutional argument, much of the work of the House Managers today was about reminding the Senators around them—who are not allowed to leave their seats or check their phones—of the horrors that they themselves were witness to. "The president of the United States sided with the insurrectionists," Representative David Cicilline told the Senate in his presentation. "He celebrated their cause. He validated their attack. He told them, 'Remember this day forever,' hours after they marched through these halls looking to assassinate Vice President Pence, the speaker of the House, and any of us they could find." (Source: Washington Post)
While House Managers made their case in an efficient 90 minutes, Trump's defense team used the full two hours to make a series of looping, meandering arguments including:
Senators are good people, which lead lawyer Bruce Castor spent the first 20 minutes of his 50 explaining in a confusing, folksy narrative about his parents and a record they had of former Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen.
That you shouldn’t silence "free and robust speech," which is what the House Managers want to do by impeaching the president for inciting a mob.
That the article of impeachment is flawed because it is not broken into multiple articles.
That House Managers are only doing this because they are afraid of Donald Trump running again and that people "wouldn't be smart enough" to not vote for him.
That this "isn't about Donald Trump," it's about abusing the constitution "for political gain," as attorney David Schoen argued once he began his circular hour and ten minute presentation.
That Democrats have been trying to get the President since 2016, a point Schoen illustrated with video clips from news shows for the last four years.
That Democrats are approaching impeachment like "some kind of bloodsport" and that they won't hold power forever and will face impeachment themselves as a result.
That convicting the president for inciting an insurrection would "tear this country apart like we've only seen one other time in our history," which is a wild thing to say after an insurrection that saw National Guard quartered in the capitol for the first time since the Civil War.
That it's not a real trial because it's not presided over by the Chief Justice.
It went on like that for a remarkably long time, both lawyers seemingly free associating between topics almost at random. "The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on," Republican Senator John Cornyn told reporters "I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen." (Source: New York Times)
The presentations wrapped at 5:00 Eastern and were immediately followed by a vote to proceed with the impeachment trial. That vote was expected to mirror a similar vote on the constitutionality of the trial held January 26th, which saw 45 Republicans vote to throw out the trial and 50 Democrats and five Republicans vote to hold it. Today's vote saw those same five Republicans (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Patrick Toomey) joined by a sixth, Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, making the final tally 56-44 to move forward with impeachment. Explaining his vote, Cassidy said that Trump's lawyers were "disorganized" and "random" and that they "talked about many things, but they didn't talk about the issue at hand." In voting to move forward, Cassidy said that "the House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the President's team did not." (Source: CNN)
The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins in the Senate tomorrow and, today, we finally found out how it will work, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had agreed on a framework for the trial. The short of it? It's going to be much quicker than last year's trial, which lasted two weeks. Here's the breakdown of how things are slated to go down:
Noon tomorrow, Tuesday February 9th, will mark the official start of the trial, which will open with a four hour debate and vote over whether or not it's constitutional to try a former president. If this sounds a lot like the vote Rand Paul forced on January 26th, which was about whether or not it was constitutional to try a former president, that's because, well, it is. The big question is whether this vote will be the same as that vote, which saw 45 Republicans vote to toss the trial. Assuming the vote decides that it is constitutional for the Senate to hold an impeachment trial (spoiler alert: it is), then…
Wednesday will kick off arguments, the real meat of the trial, which will last a few days. The House Managers (the prosecutors in the trial) go first and will have up to 16 hours over two days to make their case. Trump's team will then present his defense and will have the same amount of time. Last year, each side had 24 hours over three days, so we're already looking at a shorter trial.
Everyone will take a break before sundown on Friday and the trial will be recessed on Saturday as well, following a request by Trump's attorney David Schoen, who observes the Jewish Sabbath. But come mid-day Sunday, everything gets going again (last year's trial gave everyone Sunday off).
Once each team makes their case—which will either be by the recess on Friday (if Trump's team goes short, which they did last year) or by the end of Sunday (if they take the full time)—Senators will have a total of four hours combined to ask questions of the House Managers and the defense (this is down significantly from last year when they had 16 hours over two days for their questions).
Following the Q&A, there's a vote for witnesses and, if that doesn't pass, each team will have two hours to make their closing arguments. At least as of now, it's not looking like anyone is going to push hard for witnesses (more on that below).
After closing arguments, Senators will vote on whether or not to convict on the single article of impeachment, probably with some speechifying first. Conviction requires a 2/3 majority, which is 67 votes.
There are ways that things could take longer, but the general expectation is that this could wrap up quite early next week. If the main arguments wrap by Friday night's recess and there's not much contention around witnesses, you could see how this could wrap as soon as next Monday. (Source: Washington Post)
The rules of the trial weren't the only things delivered today, as more trial briefs came in as well. First up was Trump's legal team, who filed a 47 page brief expanding on the arguments they made in the much shorter brief they filed last week. In today's brief, Trump's lawyers called the impeachment "political theater," and accused House Democrats of suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome," and being out to get the former president. They once again cast the trial itself as unconstitutional, due to Trump no longer being in office, and said that nothing Trump said caused the crowd of his supporters to storm the capitol, explaining that they simply "did so of their own accord and for their own reasons." Stares. (Source: NPR)
The House Managers also filed a brief today, a response to the Trump team's filing from last week. Calling the defense's argument "wholly without merit" the House Managers wrote that the former president "has no valid excuse or defense for his actions." Trump's "efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing," and his incitement of the mob that stormed the Capitol "merits conviction and disqualification" from holding future office. (Source: NBC News)
While we now know the basic timeline of the trial, witnesses are still an open question to be decided after each side makes their arguments. This time around, however, there's less emphasis by Democrats on the need to call witnesses. "This is based on a public crime," Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters. Trump's "intent was unhidden and so I think there’s a danger as there always is for a trial lawyer and prosecutor to over-try, to add more witnesses that prove the obvious." One driver on the aversion for witnesses among at least some Democratic Senators is that lengthening the trial will get in the way of passing legislation like covid relief and approving president Biden's cabinet picks. But ultimately, we won't know what's going to happen with witnesses until the vote happens on Sunday or Monday. However, one witnesses we know won't be called is former president Donald Trump, who was invited by House Managers to testify last week. His lawyers forcibly declined. (Source: Politico)
Finally, it's remarkable to think that it was only a month and two days ago that the insurrection that started all this happened, and if you're finding yourself a little lost in how we got here and where we're going, the New York Times has an excellent flowchart stepping through what lead to what and where the impeachment is heading from here. (Source: New York Times)
The first briefs of former president Trump's second impeachment trial were filed today, one week ahead of the expected start of the trial. First up was an 80 page document by the House Managers, the congresspeople prosecuting the trial in the Senate, outlining the facts and arguments in their case. After giving a detailed timeline of the day of the insurrection, the brief outlined the House Managers' three arguments:
President Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors. "If provoking an insurrectionary riot against a joint session of congress after losing an election is not an impeachable offense, it is hard to imagine what would be," the House Managers argue. This section goes on to explain how, in inciting the mob to lay siege to the Capitol, the former president violated his oath of office, attacked the democratic process, imperiled congress, and undermined national security. Which, when you put it like that, does sound pretty bad.
There is no defense for President Trump's conduct. Here, the House Managers push back against the various defenses that have been offered for the President's actions, especially the assertion that he was simply disputing the results of the election. "We live in a Nation governed by the rule of law, not mob violence incited by candidates who cannot accept their own defeat," the House Managers write. Moreover, they point out that there are plenty of examples of presidents who disputed their loss "yet despite their feelings of grievance, all of these Presidential candidates accepted the election results and acquiesced to the peaceful transfer of power required by the Constitution. President Trump, alone in our nation's history, did not."
The Senate has jurisdiction to try this impeachment. In this final section, the House Managers try and head off what they think will be Trump's main defense: that the Senate can't hold an impeachment trial for a former president. To that, the Managers say there is no "January exception" on impeachment and that the president is the president through the end of his term, and thusly has to answer for actions all the way through it. To not try the former president, the Senate "risks declaring to all future presidents that there will be no consequences, no accountability, indeed no Congressional response at all if they violate their oath" in the final weeks of their term.
Beyond the arguments put forth, the brief also gives a good sense of how the House Managers will present their case, putting forward a timeline of events during the insurrection on January 6 that is heavily footnoted with quotes lifted from video shot by the mob in the capitol. Expect to see that video used on the Senate floor next week. (Source: original document (pdf))
A few hours after the House Managers, the ex-president's legal team filed a brief of their own, responding to the original article of impeachment (they'll respond to today's brief by the House next week). After misspelling "United States" as "Unites States" in the first line—stares—the response by Trump's team, as expected, focused on their assertion that the impeachment trial itself is unconstitutional and also leaned into relitigating the 2020 election, because of course. Across 14 pages, Trump's legal assertion is basically:
He's not the president anymore, so none of this applies to him.No, really. "Since the 45th President is no longer 'President,' his legal team asserts, "the Senate of the United States lacks jurisdiction," over him. Leaving aside his lawyers weird insistence throughout the document to refer to Trump exclusively as "the 45th President" and putting the word President itself when not used in the context of their client in quotes, the argument is dubious ground, but they stake it repeatedly.
Was the president stoking the flames by repeatedly lying about the election results? According to his lawyers, who can say if he was lying, you know, if you really think about it. "Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th president’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false." Of course, plenty of "reasonable" jurists—that Trump himself appointed—found that the assertion Trump won the election was false, but, you know, you gotta play the hand you're dealt I guess.
Trump's legal team didn't have much time to prepare today's document, having only been named yesterday, so that could have something to do with the overall presentation. But wait, you, an astute reader ask, didn't Trump hire a legal team headed by a guy named Butch a couple weeks ago? Yes, he did. But Trump, Butch, and the five other lawyers that had been assembled to defend him, parted ways this weekend. The reason? "Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he's left office," CNN reported this weekend. The new team, it seems, decided on a "why not both" approach. (Source: CNN)
So what kind of legal team can a former president who's been turned down by most of his previous attorneys assemble at the last minute to defend him in an impeachment trial? Bruce Castor and David Schoen, apparently. Who? Castor is best known as the attorney who refused to prosecute Bill Cosby for sexual assault back in 2005 when he was district attorney in Montgomery County Pennsylvania and Schoen is a lawyer the Washington Post describes as having "ties to several high-profile, controversial defendants, including Roger Stone and Jeffrey Epstein." So this should go great. (Source: Washington Post)
2 Weeks Ago
The Senate was sworn in today for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump in a year. Just 376 days after the last time, Senators once again swore to do "impartial justice" in the trial of Trump. This time around however, it's for a former president, since Trump left office last Wednesday, and because of that, the presiding officer is not the Chief Justice of the United States but Senator Patrick Leahy, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. Leahy administered the oath this afternoon. The trial itself won't begin until February 9th. (Source: Twitter)
Immediately after swearing an oath to do "impartial justice," Republican Senator Rand Paul—stares—forced a vote to throw out the impeachment trial. The reason? "Private citizens don't get impeached," he said. "Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused here has already left office." The vote failed, but not by much. 45 Republicans voted to toss the impeachment trial before it even began, with just five voting to hold it: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Patrick Toomey. With 45 votes against even holding the trial, it's not great odds that 17 of 50 Republicans will vote to convict Trump once the trial is over—those 17 joining a presumed 50 Democrats for the needed 67 votes—but we won't know until we know. (Source: New York Times)
The job of convincing Senators to vote to convict the former President falls to the House managers, the prosecutors of the impeachment trial. With two weeks before the trial begins, their strategy for trying the case is starting to come into focus: lean into ex-president Trump's words and the way those words spurred the actions of the mob. "Visuals are central in prosecuting the case against Trump," the Washington Post reports, "because the evidence is in plain sight and will remind senators of what they experienced that day." (Source: Washington Post)
Whether witnesses will play a role in making the House manager's case is still an open question. While last year's impeachment trial was effectively ended by a Republican vote to not allow witnesses, Democrats have the majority in the equally-split Senate this year and could likely pass a witness vote. "If either the managers or the defense want to put up witnesses and documents, they should be able to," Senator Tim Kaine told Politico. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer isn't sure calling witnesses will be necessary, however, since "we were all witnesses." Which, well, fair point. The final rules for the trial, including an approach to witnesses, are still in negotiation and likely won't be known for a while yet. (Source: Politico)
The single article of impeachment was transferred from the House to the Senate today, at 7pm Eastern, with a formal, solemn march through the Capitol by the House managers. The path they took, between the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers, lead them through the very halls of the Capitol that less than three weeks ago were held by the insurrectionist mob. The article of impeachment was read aloud by Congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, in the Senate chamber. Hearing the one article, "incitement of insurrection," read in front of the Senate dais, the site of some of the more notorious images from that very insurrection, was—well—something. The formal transfer of the article means that the former president's fate now rests with the Senate which will conduct an impeachment trial.
Normally the transfer of the article of impeachment would pause all other work in the Senate until the trial was over. This time, however, a rules agreement was struck between the newly-in-power Democrats and Republicans to delay the arguments of the trial for two weeks so that the work of the new Biden administration can move forward, including approving cabinet officials and advancing (well, maybe) legislation like covid relief. The extra time also allows ex-president Trump to get his defense together. As a result of the agreement, the next two weeks are expected to look like this:
January 25: The article of impeachment is transferred (that happened tonight).
January 26: Senators are sworn in and a summons is issued to former president Trump.
February 2: Trump's defense answers the article of impeachment and the House managers submit their pre-trial brief.
February 8: Trump's defense issues their pre-trial brief and the House managers respond to Trump's answer from the previous week.
February 9: The House managers issue their response to Trump's latest brief and, at that point, the trial can begin. Wheeeee.
While this schedule lays out what the next two weeks will look like, there's a lot of questions about how the trial itself will unfold. How long will it last? Will there be witnesses? Will the Senate pass a rule allowing them to get other work done? And, you know, is it constitutional to try an ex-president to begin with? Bloomberg has a good look at the many questions and makes attempts to answer them. (Source: Bloomberg)
One question that was answered today is who will preside over the trial. In impeachment trials of sitting presidents, the Chief Justice of the United States is the presiding officer. However, because Trump is no longer president, today it was announced that Senator Patrick Leahy, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate will preside. Leahy's role as presiding officer began with the receipt of articles tonight. Interestingly, despite presiding over the trial, it's also expected that Leahy will be able to vote on the conviction of the president as a sitting Senator. "I'm not presenting the evidence," he told reporters today, "I'm making sure the procedures are followed." Just as an aside, Leahy has appeared in five different Batman movies. No, really. (Source: CNN)
Finally, even though the trial won't really get underway for two more weeks, the Washington Post is keeping track of where all 100 Senators stand in regard to convicting the former president. By the Post's count (which is ongoing) 41 support, 22 are "open to conviction," 29 oppose, and 8 senators haven't voiced anything. Keep in mind that conviction requires a 2/3 majority, which is 67 senators. Which means—counts on fingers—hmmmmmmm. (Source: Washington Post)
3 Weeks Ago
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that the article of impeachment against Donald Trump will be transferred to the Senate on Monday, triggering the next stage of the impeachment process, a trial. When asked if it was worth still trying a now-former president, Pelosi answered that "just because he is gone—thank god—you don't say to a president 'do whatever you want the last months of your administration.'" To not try ex-President Trump, Pelosi said, would mean "to forget that people died here on January 6" and that in inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol, the president made an "attempt to undermine our election, to undermine our democracy," and "to dishonor our constitution." (Source: Associated Press)
Transferring the article of impeachment should mean that the Senate immediately transforms into a court and begins holding a trial. However, tonight new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a rules change to delay the start of the impeachment trial to February 8. The two-week delay would allow the Senate to "continue to do other business for the American people," he said, "such as cabinet nominations and the covid relief bill." How to balance the many immediate needs of the brand-new Biden administration with the demands of an impeachment trial has been an open question since the president was impeached last week (last week??), and now we know the answer. Given the rapid-fire impeachment in the House, the delay will also allow the president more time to prepare a defense, a concern for Republicans. (Source: New York Times)
Speaking of Trump's defense, after speculation over the last week that many of the lawyers who defended him for his last impeachment would not come to his defense this time, the lawyer who will lead Trump's defense in the Senate has been announced: Butch Bowers, a South Carolina attorney. Bowers—it's taking a lot to not call him "Butch"—helped stave off the impeachment of former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who claimed to have gone hiking on the Appliacian trail when he was actually in Argentina having an affair. South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham describes Bowers as "a solid guy." (Source: Bloomberg)
What defense approach Butch Bowers and the rest of the former-president's legal team will take is still unknown, but a popular defense is emerging among Republicans: you can't hold an impeachment trial for someone who's no longer president.No, really, that's what they're going with. According to Politico, "interviews with more than a dozen GOP senators revealed broad support for the claim that the Senate has no constitutional authority to put a private citizen on trial." Though, Politico points out that even the conservative Federalist Society disagrees with this take, saying that "the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction, and disqualification of former officers, including presidents." But even if it's permitted, it's not going to stop a whole lot of people making this claim come Monday. (Source: Politico)
While it's likely not true that you can't hold an impeachment trial for an ex-president it is true that the main outcome of a conviction, removal from office, is moot if the person isn't still in the office anymore. So what's the point? Well, in addition to the message it sends, once convicted (note: still a very high bar) the Senate could immediately vote to ban Trump from running for office ever again, a decision that would only require 51 votes instead of the 2/3rds majority required to convict. So there's that. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
4 Weeks Ago
Today started with the expectation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would shed some light on when the articles of impeachment passed Wednesday would be transferred to the Senate for a trial, the next step in the impeachment process. Instead, Pelosi told assembled press that the articles would not be transferred yet and gave no further timeline except to say that the press would "be the first to know when we announce." What's the holdup? Pelosi explained that preparing the case takes time, and that the House managers—the prosecutors of the trial—are "solemnly and prayerfully preparing." But almost certainly part of the holdup is that, if they transferred articles right now, the trial would begin on Joe Biden's Inauguration Day and would interrupt plans for legislation in the early days of his presidency. Holding the articles in the House allows the Senate to approve Biden's cabinet appointments (which Republicans have not moved on) and address pressing legislation like covid relief. Shifting timing for the trial or adjusting Senate rules to allow for both a trial and other work simultaneously requires a deal to be brokered and one hasn't been yet, so we wait. Maybe for a while, maybe for less. (Source: Bloomberg)
Every day reveals more information about just how much worse things at the Capitol attack could have gone. Today the Washington Post reported for the first time that the mob "came perilously close" to Vice President Pence, who was not evacuated from the Senate chamber "for about 14 minutes after the Capitol Police reported an initial attempted breach of the complex." It now turns out that just one minute after the VP was finally evacuated from the chamber, a group of insurrectionists made it to a landing just outside the still-open Senate chambers. The new information about how long it was until the VP was moved and how close the mob got raises "questions about why the Secret Service did not move him earlier," which, yes. Yes it does. (Source: Washington Post)
The reason that the mob outside the Senate chambers didn't enter right then was thanks to the work of a single Capitol Police officer, Eugene Goodman. Today, ProPublica surfaced new video of Goodman leading the mob away from the Senate chambers. The video, which compliments one that has circulated widely, "depicts the showdown between Goodman and the angry mob, and lets viewers see more clearly the size of the crowd and its rage." It is a true testament to Goodman's courage that things didn't take an even darker turn. (Source: ProPublica)
Meanwhile, inspectors general from the Justice Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior jointly announced plans to "review the protocols and policies that were in place in the lead-up to last week's breach" of the Capitol. The goal of the joint investigation, according to the New York Times, is "to determine why the federal government was caught flat-footed when pro-Trump rioters attacked Congress" and to "come up with protocols to prevent similar failures" in the future. (Source: New York Times)
Whatever new safety protocols the joint investigations recommend will come long after the immediate need presented by the "credible threats" against the government that continue to be reported. As a result, with the inauguration of Joe Biden just days away, Washington DC is becoming heavily locked down. 25,000 National Guard troops will be stationed in the nation's capitol for at least the next week, the National Mall and all the memorials around it will shut down starting today, and vehicle inspection checkpoints will go up around central DC. "We cannot allow a recurrence of the chaos and illegal activity that the United States and the world witnessed last week," Matthew Miller, the head of the Secret Service’s Washington field office, told the Associated Press today. On a personal note, readers in the DC area: I hope you stay safe. (Source: Reuters)
It feels genuinely waves hands in all directions to conclude today's entry this way, but even as Washington prepares for Joe Biden's inauguration, investigations into the attack that happened just last week are ongoing, and the House prepares to transfer articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial over his incitement of an insurrection, Donald Trump apparently is continuing to entertain delusions of, well, inciting an insurrection. Close inspection of a photograph of—of all people—a bedding CEO entering the West Wing this afternoon revealed that he was carrying a plan that suggested the president could implement martial law via the insurrection act to, apparently, overthrow the government. So that seems real chill and good and definitely the kind of thing that will blow over easily on the last weekend the president spends in office. (Source: Twitter)
It's the day after the House impeached the president for the second time in a year and all we know, like the song says, is that we don't know nothing. The process is very clear: the impeachment moves from the House to the Senate, where a trial will be held. If the president is convicted, by a 2/3rds majority vote, he will be removed from office and barred from ever running again. But while the process is clear, the reality is much more complicated. The Senate is currently recessed until January 19th, the day before Joe Biden will be inaugurated president and the day before the balance of power in the Senate will shift from Republicans to Democrats. Given that, the soonest a trial could get underway is 1pm on Inauguration Day, not a likely start time for an impeachment trial of what will be, at that point, the previous president. In addition to all that, an impeachment trial takes precedence over other Senate work, unless all 100 Senators consent to a rules change, which feels unlikely, and means that work on Joe Biden's agenda and approving his appointments can't get started. "We are working with Republicans to try to find a path forward," incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Politico, but what "forward" will look like is anyone's guess. Which is 2021 in a nutshell so far isn't it. (Source: Politico)
Meanwhile, a notable part of yesterday's impeachment was that ten Republicans split with the rest of their party and voted to impeach the president. Today saw an attempt at retribution at the leader of that pack of Republicans, Liz Cheney, whose position as the Republican conference chairwoman makes her the third-ranking Republican in the House. Representatives Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs led the charge against Cheney, circulating a petition for her to be removed from her post. The ranking Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, however said that he "does not support efforts to remove her as conference chair." (Source: Washington Post)
A week out from the attack on the Capitol, new details continue to emerge. Along with arrests of many of the more prominent faces from last Wednesday's attacks, more than 30 lawmakers have sent a letter to the House and Senate Sergeant-At-Arms asking for an investigation into what they call an "extremely high number of outside groups" seen inside the Capitol on January 5, the day before the attack. The visitors—an unusual site since tours are suspended due to coronavirus restrictions in the Capitol—"appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day" and likely were brought into the Capitol by other lawmakers which, stares. (Source: Forbes)
And finally, even as question marks loom over when and how the Senate will pick up the impeachment, reports continue to come out that the president is struggling to find lawyers to represent him in the trial the Senate will eventually hold. According to Bloomberg, in addition to Jay Sekulow and White House Councel Pat Cipollone who ran point last year and have already bowed out of this round, "other lawyers who have defended Trump at times, including former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Eric Herschmann, Pat Philbin and Marc Kasowitz aren’t interested in joining a team this time." Says Keith Whittington, a politics professor at Princeton University, "The fact is he’s not going to get the A team." You don't say. (Source: Bloomberg)
The president was impeached today, a week to the day after he incited a mob that laid siege to the Capitol, and a week to the day before he leaves office, having lost the 2020 presidential election. The vote makes him the only president in history to be impeached twice. The final outcome was 232 votes to impeach, 197 against. Every Democrat voted to impeach the president for "Incitement of Insurrection" and were joined by 10 Republicans, making this the most bipartisan impeachment in history (the previous high was when five Democrats voted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998). Held in chambers that were mostly empty due to coronavirus restrictions and that one week ago were "an actual crime scene," as Massachusetts Rep Jim McGovern reminded those assembled, the debate lasted a little over three hours and was as rancorous as you would imagine. In the end, however, the result was no surprise—Democrats knew they had the votes going in—and so, for just the fourth time in US history, the president has been impeached. Two of those impeachments were Donald Trump. (Source: Washington Post)
While the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion, it was an open question whether any Republicans would break with their party and vote to impeach the president. In the end, ten did. Led by Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and third ranking Republican member of the House, Representatives John Katko, Adam Kinzinger, Fred Upton, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Peter Meijer, Anthony Gonzalez, Tom Rice, and David Valadao all voted to impeach the President. In explaining the break from her party, Washington Rep Jaime Herrera Beutler said "I’m not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth. It’s the only way to defeat fear." (Source: New York Times)
Of course, while ten Republicans voted to impeach, 197 voted against. Republicans offered a broad range of reasons for their "nay" votes: the President was simply exercising his free speech; the impeachment was rushed; the Democrats were just out for revenge; this was "cancel culture" run amok; and a litany of false equivalencies between the sack of the US Capitol and the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer. The refrain said most commonly was that now was a time for "unity" and that impeaching the president would, as Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "further divide the nation." Last week, after the Capitol siege, McCarthy led 139 House Republicans in voting against certifying the results of the presidential election. But today, McCarthy concluded his speech saying that he stood "ready" to work with the Biden administration "with good will." Stares. (Source: New York Post)
While Republicans called for unity and for moving on, Democrats demanded accountability for the President's actions last week. "We and this country cannot begin healing in unity without accountability and justice," said Michigan Representative Brenda Lawrence, reminding those assembled that "the president incited a violent insurrection against Congress: You, me and the Vice President." That members of Congress were the target of the siege of the Capitol was a regular refrain heard from Democrats, as House members recounted the terror they experienced first-hand just one week ago. "The president of the United States summoned the mob" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in the final speech of the debate. "Are we to remain silent? Will we not stand up and say this is not acceptable?" he asked. "We must rise to this moment," he answered, and urged the members of the House to "reject sedition, tyranny and insurrection." In the end, 232 members of the House of Representatives did and the President was impeached, again. (Source: Politico)
There was another, far more ominous, bit of history attached to today's vote: It was the first time since the Civil War that troops quartered in the Capitol. The day began with images of thousands of National Guard troops sleeping on the hard marble floors of the Capitol building. According to Buzzfeed News reporter Paul McLeod, 3,000 troops ended up sleeping there overnight "because there was nowhere" else to put them. McLeod later reported that they were being relocated to hotels "as soon as possible." (Source: BuzzFeed News)
The Guard presence in Washington DC is only going to increase over the next week, as "credible threats" of a repeat of the violence seen last week timed for next Wednesday's inauguration has led to the deployment of 20,000 National Guard troops to DC. The potential for more violence prompted a short statement from President Trump today, issued while debate was ongoing in the House. In his statement he told supporters there "must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind." Notably absent from his brief statement—which was short enough to be a Tweet had he not been permanently banned from the platform—were instructions to his supporters not to come. (Source: NPR)
So setting aside the terrifying prospect of more violence, what happens next in the impeachment process? As we learned just one year ago, impeachment in the House leads to a trial in the Senate. Well, the presidency isn't the only thing changing hands next week: the Senate will too when Republicans lose their majority. While a Senate trial could theoretically begin before Inauguration Day, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today said that he would not call the recessed Senate back early to do so. Meaning that sorting out how to hold an impeachment trial while also not gumming up President-elect Biden's agenda and appointments falls to incoming Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer. It also means that the trial, which requires a 2/3 majority vote to convict, will happen once President Trump has already left office. (Source: Bloomberg)
While there's more things we don't know about the Senate trial than what we do, one thing that is locked is who the House managers—essentially the prosecutors—of the trial will be. Last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Representative Jamie Raskin would lead the team of Representatives Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Joe Neguse, and Madeleine Dean to make their case in the Senate. Who the President's defense team will be is anyone's guess but one would hope he finds people more qualified than his campaign lawyers. (Source: CNN)
After an evening of floor debate—some of which was devoted to complaints from Republicans about newly-installed metal detectors and mask fines—the House of Representatives voted on a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's Cabinet to remove President Trump from office. The final vote passed 223 to 205 with every Democrat voting for the resolution and all but one Republican, Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, voting against it. The resolution is non-binding, so it was not likely to actually lead to the President's removal from office, but it was the first step the House was taking to hold the president accountable for his actions during last Wednesday's attack on the Capitol.
However, just before tonight's vote got underway, Vice President Mike Pence wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informing her that he would not invoke the 25th, rendering tonight's vote essentially meaningless. He quoted the bible—stares—in giving his reasoning, saying that "for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven" and that now was a "time to heal." He urged "every member of Congress" to "avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment." A week ago tomorrow, the Vice President was locked down in an undisclosed location while armed insurrectionists roamed the halls of Congress calling his name. During that time, the president he protected tonight never phoned to find out if he was OK. (Source: NPR)
Tonight's vote was really about setting up tomorrow's vote, which is on the one article of impeachment introduced just yesterday: "Incitement of Insurrection." If this feels much faster than—checks notes—last year's impeachment, that's because it is. The House has done away with the extensive inquiry and hearings they undertook last year and instead are charging straight to an impeachment vote in the final week of the Trump presidency. They will gavel in tomorrow at 9am Eastern and things should get underway shortly after that. The impeachment of the president is assured to pass, but it will likely come at the end of a long day.
While tonight's vote saw only one Republican break ranks, Rep Adam Kinzinger, tomorrow is going be different. Liz Cheney, the number three ranking Republican in the House, announced tonight that she would vote to impeach. Along with Cheney, today Republicans John Katko, Fred Upton, and Jaime Herrera Beutler also announced their intention to vote for impeachment. "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution," Cheney said in her announcement. On December 18, 2019, when the House last impeached Donald Trump, no Republicans voted to impeach him, so five stepping forward—and potentially more to come—is a thing. (Source: Politico)
The defections announced by Republican House members tonight are significant, but they were overshadowed by a report from the New York Times that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the second most powerful Republican after the President, was "pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach" Donald Trump. Anonymously-sourced reports of McConnell's pleasure are a long way from a vote to convict the president in a Senate trial—which follows impeachment in the House—but it is a significant break away from the President ahead of tomorrow's vote. (Source: New York Times)
Meanwhile, the President appeared in public for the first time since last Wednesday's siege, flying down to Alamo, Texas—which is not where the Alamo is—to give a speech in front of an unfinished section of border wall. Before boarding Air Force One, he told reporters that his speech last Wednesday ahead of the siege was "totally appropriate." Once in Texas, he said that the 25th amendment was of "zero risk" to him, called the impeachment a "hoax," and warned that that President-elect Joe Biden should "be careful what you wish for." Stares. (Source: Washington Post)
Also today, the FBI and Department of Justice announced that they had more than 160 cases now open stemming from last week's attack on the Capitol. Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said in a press conference that they expect the numbers to "geometrically" increase, calling them the "tip of the iceberg." The press conference was the first that federal law enforcement has held since the attack and FBI Director Christopher Wray did not attend, fueling "questions about whether the Trump administration is treating the incident with the seriousness it requires." Ya think?(Source: CNN)
The Capitol Police are also investigating the attack last week and what role, if any, Capitol Police officers may have played in it. The Washington Post reports that "several" officers have been suspended and "more than a dozen others" are under investigation for "suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for" the pro-Trump rally and the riot that followed. None of that sounds good, but investigations are ongoing. (Source: Washington Post)
Finally, an additional danger from last Wednesday's attack has emerged: covid-19. Multiple House members have tested positive for the coronavirus after sheltering in place with maskless members during the attack last week. Democratic Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Pramila Jayapal, and Brad Schneider have all announced that they are positive. Rep Jayapal laid blame squarely at the feet of Republican House members who wouldn't wear masks in the saferoom. "Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum covid-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack," she said. (Source: Buzzfeed News)
It's official. Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump were introduced in the House of Representatives today. It's been a little more than a year since the last time Trump was impeached by the House. This year's resolution follows the violent siege of the Capitol by Trump supporters last Wednesday in an attempt to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election. The single article introduced today, "Incitement of Insurrection" places the blame for that siege squarely at the feet of the president, and contends that, in his speech prior to the insurrection, the president "willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol." The article of impeachment concludes that President Trump "has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office" and his actions warrant "impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States." (Source: New York Times)
In addition to the impeachment resolution introduced today, the House also introduced a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's Cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment and remove the president from office. The resolution was put up for consideration during today's pro-forma session, but would have required unanimous consent to pass, and was blocked by West Virginia Republican Alex Mooney. Instead, the resolution will go up for a vote tomorrow. The resolution calls for Pence to "immediately use his powers under section 4 of the 25th Amendment to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments in the Cabinet to declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office." The resolution is non-binding and at least as of this writing, the Vice President has not signaled that he's willing to invoke the 25th. (Source: Washington Post)
While they will vote on the 25th amendment resolution on Tuesday, Democrats are preparing for an impeachment vote on Wednesday morning. A vote on Wednesday would fall one week after the siege of the Capitol and one week before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration—talk about timing. The resolution already has at least 218 co-sponsors, according to Politico, meaning that it would meet "the majority needed for passage in the House." That means that, most likely by the end of the day Wednesday, the President will be impeached for the second time. (Source: Politico)
Despite having been present for the attack on the Capitol, Republicans in the House largely oppose impeachment. In a letter sent to his caucus this evening, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who last week voted against affirming Biden's clear electoral victory, wrote that impeachment "would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together."Stares. Despite Republican opposition, impeaching the President in the House only requires a majority vote, which the Democrats have, easily. (Source: CNBC)
However, as we learned just—checks notes—one year ago, impeachment in the House is different than conviction and removal in the Senate, which requires a 2/3rds majority. Even with the power in the Senate shifting to Democrats next week—when the incoming Georgian Senators, elected in last week's runoff, are joined by incoming Vice President Kamala Harris who will assume her role as President of the Senate—a 2/3 majority will be hard. An impeachment trial in the Senate also poses difficulty when it comes to moving President Biden's agenda forward, including speeding up covid vaccinations and getting more stimulus checks out, as it supersedes other work. While Representative James Clyburn floated the possibility of holding off on the impeachment trial until after Biden's 100 day mark, the President-elect today said he would rather the Senate "bifurcate" their day. “Could you go half a day on dealing with impeachment and half a day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate, as well as moving on the package?" he asked, while getting his second covid vaccination. (Source: Bloomberg)
Whenever and however a Senate trial happens, Trump will need a legal team to represent him, which may be a challenge. Many of the lawyers who represented the president in last year's impeachment trial, including Jay Sekulow and Jane Raskin "are not expected to be involved," CNN reports. White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was heavily involved in the last impeachment as well, is reported to have considered resigning over the president's actions since the election. So who might represent Trump at the trial? CNN reports that celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Rudy Giuliani are frontrunners.Screams. (Source: CNN)
Finally, today saw even more details come out about the ferocity of the attack on the Capitol last week. In addition to the release of harrowing footage of Capitol Police being dragged and beaten by the mob, Nancy Pelosi gave an interview to 60 Minutes where she revealed that her office staffers barricaded a conference room door, turned off the lights, and hid under a table for two and a half hours while the mob sacked the office just outside.My god.(Source: 60 Minutes)
5 Weeks Ago
It begins. Today, a draft resolution containing articles of impeachment against the president were circulated among lawmakers. The single article in this draft charges "Incitement of Insurrection" and contends that Trump "engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States." By inciting the mob, "President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coordinate branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States." As a result, the resolution states, the president "warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States." It is expected that the articles will be introduced on Monday, January 11, when the House reconvenes. (Source: Washington Post)
The draft articles capped a furious day of work by Democrats that included a nearly four-hour conference call where House Democrats discussed how to proceed. "The President chose to be an insurrectionist," Pelosi is reported to have told the Democrats on the call. "How we go forward is a subject for this caucus." The call focused on multiple actions to remove the president including impeachment and a resolution to form a commission to invoke the 25th amendment. The potential of introducing multiple avenues for removal was, according to a source cited by Yahoo News, to "let a thousand flowers bloom." Later, Pelosi described the call as "sad, moving and patriotic. It was a conversation unlike any other, because it followed an action unlike any other." (Source: Yahoo News)
Meanwhile, President-Elect Joe Biden spoke to reporters and said that "what the Congress decides to do is for them to decide" in regards to impeachment. He held off fully endorsing impeachment, however, explaining that "if we were six months out, we should be doing everything to get him out of office," but with such a short time before he takes over, Biden is focused on what it takes to "get our agenda moving as quickly as we can." (Source: Reuters)
Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski became the first Republican senator to call for Trump's removal, telling the Anchorage Daily News, "I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage." She went on to say that if the Republicans continued to be "the party of Trump" that she would consider switching her party affiliation to independent. (Source: Anchorage Daily News)
Murkowski was joined by fellow Republican senator Ben Sasse who said he would "consider" articles of impeachment because the president "has disregarded his oath of office." (Source: CBS News)
But the prevailing attitude toward impeachment by Republicans was voiced by senator Lindsey Graham who stated that it's time to "move on" from the siege of the Capitol just two days before. Impeaching the president would "will do more harm than good," he tweeted. Stares. (Source: Twitter)
One of the biggest challenges facing re-impeaching the president is time itself. His tenure in office runs out in less than two weeks. So how could impeaching him in such a compressed timeframe even work? The key element, for the House at least, is just to jump straight to a vote. The first impeachment of the president was marked by weeks of testimony to the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees but, according to the New York Times, those hearings were "meant to build consensus for such a drastic action" among both lawmakers and the American people and are "not necessary under the rules." Because of this, the House could simply "draw up charges, introduce and proceed directly to a debate and vote on the floor of the House," which is the only realistic course of action given the timeframe. (Source: New York Times)
Of course, once the House impeaches the president, the action moves to the Senate for a trial and Republicans still control the Senate until inauguration day. Today Mitch McConnell circulated a memo explaining that, well, the Senate is recessed until January 19, the day before Joe Biden's inauguration. There are two pro-forma sessions scheduled for next week but, McConnell's memo explains, "it would require the consent of all 100 Senators to conduct any business of any kind during the scheduled pro-forma sessions prior to January 19, and therefore the consent of all 100 Senators to begin acting on any articles of impeachment during those sessions." Getting 100 Senators to agree on anything—let alone starting an impeachment trial of a president many of them still support—seems unlikely, so an actual impeachment trial wouldn't realistically get underway until the balance of power of the Senate shifts to Democrats on January 20th and Joe Biden becomes president, which, raises eyebrows. (Source: Washington Post)
Finally, late last night it was announced that a Capitol Police officer died after suffering injuries at the hands of the mob at the Capitol on Wednesday. Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, a military vet who served on the Capitol Police force for 12 years "was injured while physically engaging with protesters," according to a statement by the Capitol Police. "He returned to his division office and collapsed." He was taken to a hospital where he died the next day. "The sacrifice of Officer Sicknick reminds us of our obligation to those we serve: to protect our country from all threats foreign and domestic," Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. (Source: NPR)
The calls to remove Donald Trump from office grew louder today, with both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer forcefully demanding he be removed. The siege of the Capitol "was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president," Schumer said, and Trump "should not hold office one day longer." For Pelosi, "a threshold was crossed of such magnitude," that "I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment. If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment." (Source: ABC News)
The 25th amendment of the constitution allows for a president to be removed from office by the Vice President and 2/3 of the cabinet and, according to ABC News, there have been discussions among "some members of Donald Trump's Cabinet and his allies over invoking the 25th Amendment." Of course, a 2/3 majority of a cabinet hand-picked by Trump feels like a stretch and, as ABC points out, "it's unclear how extensive these conversations have been or whether Vice President Mike Pence is supportive of such action," but that they're happening at all is remarkable. (Source: ABC News)
Vice President Mike Pence, who was kept at a secure location during the siege of the Capitol yesterday while insurrectionists walked the halls calling his name, is the key to invoking the 25th amendment. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called the VP today to discuss the matter with him and, well, "They kept us on hold for 25 minutes," Pelosi said at her press conference. Once that time was up? They were told "the vice president wouldn't come on the phone." So, well, the 25th seems unlikely. (Source: NPR)
Another component that you would need for the 25th is members of the cabinet critical of the president's actions on Wednesday to, you know, stay in the cabinet. But instead, today saw Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao resign. In doing so she said the attack on the Capitol—where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was locked down during the seige—"deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside." (Source: Politico)
Calls for Trump's resignation or removal didn't just come from Democrats. Representative Adam Kinzinger from Illinois became the first Republican lawmaker to call for the president to "relinquish the control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntarily." Kitzinger explained that "all indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty or even his oath but from reality itself," and as a result was "unfit and unwell." (Source: Twitter)
The conservative editorial board at the Wall Street Journal also called for the president's resignation saying, "Mr. Trump’s actions on Wednesday do raise constitutional questions that aren’t casually dismissed." And, after calling his incitement of Wednesday's mob "impeachable," concluded by saying "if Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign." (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Amid the many calls for his resignation or removal, the president released a video where he said this moment instead "calls for healing and reconciliation," and admitted for the first time that "a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th." Just 24 hours after his supporters sacked the Capitol he then said, "my focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power," which, screams. (Source: CBS News)
Despite the various calls for resignation or invocation of the 25th amendment, the work of impeaching the president also moved forward and by the end of the day Thursday, there were two different impeachment resolutions being circulated among lawmakers. The first, according to a tweet by Representative David Price, "charges Trump for his call with the GA secretary of state to 'find votes' & for abuse of power due to his role inciting the attempted coup at the Capitol" while the second resolution "charges Trump with incitement of insurrection." (Source: Twitter)
It began with a speech on the ellipse directly south of the White House. The president's supporters had gathered there to protest the final stage in the presidential election, a process that had begun with Joe Biden's overwhelming victory on November 3rd. The president had fought the results for the last two months, losing dozens of court cases and directly appealing to state lawmakers and officials to overturn the results. It culminated in this speech, delivered just moments before a joint session of congress would be gaveled in to finalize the electoral votes and affirm Joe Biden's victory. In his speech, the president decried the election as an "egregious assault on our democracy" and urging his supporters to "show strength" because "you will never take back our country with weakness." He promised to march down Pennsylvania avenue to the Capitol with them in order to give lawmakers "the boldness they need to take back our country," but once the speech concluded and his supporters, as instructed, headed toward the capitol, he returned to the White House and watched them on TV. (Source: New York Times)
What happened next will be in history books forever, as Trumps' supporters quickly overwhelmed a small Capitol Police force and stormed the Capitol building in a siege that lasted for hours. The mob broke into offices, sat at the Senate dais, smashed artifacts and stole others, defecated on the floor, and livestreamed the entire thing. There was an armed standoff at the entrance to the House of Representatives. People carrying zip-tie handcuffs called for Vice President Mike Pence, who had been moved to an undisclosed location. A gallows was erected outside the capitol. Pipe bombs were found outside the Republican and Democratic National Committee offices nearby. When it was over five people, including a Capitol Police officer, were dead. (Source: Washington Post)
As the seige continued and reinforcements were slow to arrive, calls went up for the president to do something. Instead he released a video from the lawn of the White House where he told the rioters to go home, but reiterated that the election was stolen, and added "We love you. You’re very special. I know how you feel,” which, stares. Later that night, after the full magnitude of what had unfolded was clear, he continued to voice support for their actions, tweeting "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots." He ended by saying "Remember this day forever!" The tweet was quickly deleted by Twitter. (Source: Yahoo News)
While the president watched his supporters riot on TV, lawmakers were trapped in the Capitol, having only just begun what was expected to be a day-long process of affirming Biden's election. "It was a scene of total confusion and chaos," Representative Susan Wild told CNN. "What was going through my head was frankly terror." Capitol Police locked Representatives in the chamber initially, Representative Annie Custer told CNN. "We had a shelter in place order, and then eventually we had to evacuate. They told us to use the gas masks that are under the seats, and we had to scramble across the entire length of the balcony — really frightening. And everyone had to get out." (Source: CNN)
Later in the afternoon, once they had evacuated chambers and were secured elsewhere in the Capitol, Representative Ilhan Omar announced via Twitter that she was drawing up articles of impeachment. "Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate," she wrote. "We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath." (Source: Twitter)
Once the Capitol had been secured, lawmakers returned to chambers and affirmed Joe Biden's victory, the job they had set out to do prior to the siege. (Source: NPR)