The impeachment of former President Donald Trump for his responsibility in the assault on the Capitol began last Tuesday with a sharp contrast between the strategies of the prosecution and the defense, and with a vote in which the Senate declared that the process is legitimate and constitutional.
More than a month after Trump urged his supporters to march on Congress and a mob of them forcibly stormed the Capitol, the Senate began the second impeachment against him. already ex-president, who left power three weeks ago.
“The charges against former President Trump are the most serious ever brought against a president in the history of the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the beginning of the session.
THE FIRST DEBATE, ON THE CONSTITUTION
The fact that Trump is the first US president to face impeachment when he is no longer in power was the focus of the inaugural session of the “impeachment,” the second to be held in the Senate against the now ex-president.
Trump’s lawyers argued that it was unconstitutional to judge him politically when he is no longer in the White House, while the Democratic “prosecutors” defended the process, recalling that he evaluated events that occurred when he was still president.
“We cannot create a ‘January exception’ in our cherished Constitution, so that corrupt presidents have a few weeks to do whatever they want” at the end of their term without fear of trial, said the “prosecutor” head of the “impeachment” , Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin.
The Senate agreed with him a few hours later, by deciding that the impeachment against a president who has already left office is constitutional, by 56 votes in favor and 44 against.
All those who voted against that issue were Republicans, from Trump’s party, most of whom have avoided holding the former president directly responsible for the assault on the Capitol, which resulted in five deaths.
However, six Republican senators joined the Democratic caucus and voted in favor of declaring the process constitutional: Bill Cassidy, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey.
That first vote served as a thermometer of the atmosphere in the Senate and underlined the great probability that the impeachment trial will end in acquittal, since to condemn Trump it would take 67 votes and the Democrats only control 50 seats, so they would have to convince at least 17 Republicans.
A VIDEO SHUTS THE SENATE’S BREATH
Although the debate on the first day was focused on constitutionality, the Democratic legislators who serve as “prosecutors” of the impeachment did not want to waste time, and began their argument with a projection of a 13-minute video about the assault on the Capitol and the Trump harangues his followers.
For many legislators, senators and journalists who lived through the assault in person on January 6, it was not easy to relive it through that video, and the silence was palpable in the full Senate when the images finished playing.
“The sounds of the mob have just surrounded us again,” said Emily Cochrane of The New York Times, a journalist who was present on Capitol Hill on both January 6 and Wednesday’s session.
It was a sample of the extraordinary nature of this political trial, which revolves around events that the senators -who serve as a jury- lived in the first person, unlike the first “impeachment” against Trump, which dealt with pressure from him to Ukraine.
“There are people who died that day. Agents who have ended up with head injuries and brain damage (…). Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of the United States,” he stressed. “ prosecutor “Raskin in an emotional plea.
TRUMP’S LAWYER’S DIVAGATION
Dislocated by what he described as an “outstanding” presentation by the Democratic “prosecutors,” Trump’s top impeachment attorney, Bruce Castor, acknowledged that the defense had changed his strategy on what he planned to expose in the session.
Sources close to Trump leaked to the press that Castor’s objective was to “lower the temperature” after Raskin’s forceful speech, but what the lawyer starred in was an apparent aimless rambling, in which he mixed praise for the senators with strange references and disjointed.
Castor’s name had become trending on Twitter by the time his partner David Schoen took over and denounced the impeachment as an exercise in “crude and misunderstood partisanship.”
“This trial will tear our country apart, perhaps as we have only seen once before in the history of the United States.”, Schoen warned, in apparent reference to the civil war in the country (1861-1865).
By Lucia Leal