By Victor Reklaitis
The second impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump kicked off Tuesday, with the proceedings in the Senate coming a year after Trump’s first such trial ended with an acquittal .
Tuesday’s action consisted of debate on the constitutionality of trying a president who has left office, followed by a 56-44 vote backing its constitutionality and allowing it to proceed.
The presentation of arguments on the charge that Trump faces after the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol — inciting an insurrection — is scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, head of the House managers who are serving as prosecutors, said as Tuesday’s proceedings began that Trump’s defense attorneys are trying to “stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case.”
“They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced,” Raskin added. He said their argument on constitutionality amounts to giving a “January exception” to outgoing presidents, granting them impunity for their last few weeks in office.
Raskin also showed video of Trump’s speech to his supporters just before the storming of the Capitol, followed by extensive footage of the supporters attacking police officers and breaking into the building as lawmakers tried to affirm the results of November’s presidential election.
“If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” Raskin said after the footage.
Trump’s lawyers — who have said the former president is not responsible for the attack — spoke after Raskin, criticizing the video.
“They don’t need to show you movies to show you that the riot happened here. We will stipulate that it happened, and you know all about it,” said David Schoen, one of the former president’s attorneys. He also addressed the constitutionality issue.
“If you vote to proceed with this impeachment trial, future senators will recognize that you bought into a radical constitutional theory that departs clearly from the language of the Constitution itself and holds — and this is in their brief — that any civil officer who ever dares to want to serve his or her country must know that they will be subject to impeachment long after their service in office has ended, subject only to the political and cultural landscape of the day,” Schoen said.
Just a simple majority of the 100-seat chamber needed to vote in favor of the constitutionality of the trial for it to proceed, and such a vote had been expected.
The Senate had addressed the trial’s constitutionality previously, voting 55-45 two weeks ago to set aside an objection from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky that would have declared the impeachment proceedings unconstitutional. Five Republicans joined with the chamber’s 50 Democrats and independents in opposing Paul’s objection two weeks ago, then six joined with the other side on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, each side will get 16 hours over two days to make its case, said Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, in a floor speech on Monday.
Markets aren’t expected to get shaken by the proceedings . The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.11% and Dow industrials /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.90% finished slightly lower on Tuesday , while the Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.31% edged up to another record close.
“The Senate’s impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump will dominate the headlines and cable news this week and will occupy a lot of the Senate time and energy but there are some other events in Washington that investors should pay attention to this week,” said Brian Gardner, Stifel’s chief Washington policy strategist, in a note.
Gardner said the key events include confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s nominee for Office of Management and Budget director , Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaking on Wednesday, and ongoing talks over another COVID-19 aid package .
The White House has said Biden won’t spend much time watching the trial, and Schumer said Tuesday that the proceedings won’t throw a wrench in work on COVID relief.