WASHINGTON — Congress took a key step in the historic second impeachment of Donald Trump Monday night when the House delivered articles of impeachment to the Senate.
The Senate will now hold a trial on whether to convict Trump of the crime of inciting a violent insurrection against the US Capitol. The first step is issuing a summons to the former president.
Oral arguments on the Senate floor will start on Feb. 9, after both Trump and the House have a period to file legal briefs. It will be Trump’s second impeachment trial in a year. The most striking difference is that last year Trump faced being removed from power, whereas now he has already left office.
“Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting violence against the government of the United States,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager.
Raskin cited as evidence Trump spending weeks repeating false claims that he had actually won the 2020 election in a landslide, as well as Trump whipping up a crowd of supporters shortly before the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol, saying, among other things, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
“Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution,” said Raskin.
Republicans are denouncing the impeachment trial as divisive and pointless given that Trump is out of office. But Democrats are forging ahead, arguing that Congress still needs to hold Trump accountable for his actions.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Congress should not set a precedent where a president can commit crimes shortly before they leave office, knowing they will get away with it.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president — or any official — could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’ impeachment powers by simply resigning, so as to avoid accountability,” said Schumer.
The trial could lead to repercussions for Trump. If he is convicted — an unlikely but not totally implausible outcome — then the Senate could vote to bar him from holding public office in the future.
A vote to convict Trump would require a two-thirds majority. If all 50 Democrats vote to convict, 17 Republicans would need to join them. In the House, 10 Republicans broke with the party line and voted to impeach Trump.
A conviction would not automatically ban Trump from running for president again. But the Senate could then take a separate vote, needing a simple majority to pass, to prevent Trump from holding future office.
The House voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection” one week after the Capitol attack, making him the first president to ever be impeached twice.