WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Senate on Tuesday opened the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, with Democrats arguing he was responsible for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol but Republicans saying the proceedings are pointless.
About four hours of arguments were scheduled Tuesday while Trump’s attorneys argued the trial is unconstitutional.
“We can’t have any removal in this case because he’s an ex-president,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., explained their point of view.
Hawley, who himself has faced criticism for objecting to Electoral College votes on the same day of the riot, said he will not vote to convict Trump because he’s already out of office. He expects most Republicans in the Senate to make the same choice.
“We’ve got 45 senators already on the record saying we just don’t have the authority (to hold the trial),” Hawley said. “This thing is not going anywhere. I think our Democratic colleagues know that. And frankly, I think it is a terrible, terrible waste of time.”
Democrats say the Constitution does allow for the trial.
“I think the facts are overwhelming,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said. “I hope the senators would have an open mind, listen to the arguments on both sides.”
Even without Republican support, the trial will go forward, with the majority of senators voting Tuesday that it is constitutional.
Next, both sides will have up to 16 hours to present their case and four hours for closing arguments. It’s still unclear whether any witnesses will be called.
The House of Representatives’ impeachment managers opened their arguments Tuesday with violent footage of the mob storming the Capitol. The riot left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer who was beaten to death and a rioter who was shot by police.
“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution? That’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said.
But Trump’s attorneys will argue he was not responsible for inciting the riot.
“If we restrict liberty to attain security, we will lose both,” Trump’s attorney Bruce Castor Jr. said.
“I think he president was well within his rights to have freedom of speech,” Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said.
The trial will be much shorter than Trump’s first, with a final vote expected Monday. At least 17 Republicans would need to abandon the party line in order for Trump to be convicted, which seems unlikely.