WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial begins Tuesday in the Senate. Trump is charged by the House with inciting the violent mob attack on the U.S. Capitol to overturn the election.
Prosecutors argue it is a “grievous constitutional crime," but Trump's defense team insists his fiery words at a rally just before the Jan. 6 riot were just a figure of speech. His lawyers also say that trying a former president is unconstitutional.
The debate over that constitutional question is expected to highlight the opening day. The trial will open with four hours of debate on whether the trial is constitutional now that Trump is no longer in office. After that, prosecutors and Trump’s defense team will have up to 16 hours each to make their arguments.
While Trump’s acquittal is expected, Democrats say the trial is necessary to hold Trump accountable. A two-thirds vote of the Senate would be needed to convict Trump of the charge.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki says President Joe Biden will be busy with the business of the presidency and won’t spend much time watching the proceedings.
The House impeached Trump last month, arguing that he alone was responsible for the mob of his supporters who broke into the U.S. Capitol and interrupted the presidential electoral count on Jan. 6.
House Democrats prosecuting the impeachment case against Donald Trump say in a final pre-trial brief the former president’s lawyers are trying to “shift the blame onto his supporters” as they argue he's not to blame for the Capitol insurrection.
The Democrats say the lawyers’ argument that Trump did not incite the Jan. 6 riot ignores Trump’s earlier false statements that there was widespread fraud in the election and his attempts to rally his supporters.
Trump’s team says he was protected by freedom of speech when he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat. It says Trump was using “fight” as a general term, not a direction to be violent.
Democrats say the Republican former president “knew that many of his supporters, agitated by his barrage of lies about a stolen election, were prone to violence."
The Democrats prosecuting the case this week plan to show videos of the riot and tell graphic and personal stories of the rioting, in which five people died.
Trump’s lawyers say they also will have video.