Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial: Here’s what could happen

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump will start this week within the US Senate.


Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Former President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial within the Senate begins Tuesday. It’s a continuing that is unprecedented in each means conceivable. 

Before Trump left workplace final month, the House of Representatives impeached him on Jan. 13, charging him with inciting an rebel on the US Capitol the week earlier than. During the trial, senators will sit in judgment of the previous president and vote to convict or acquit him.

Congress is treading on new floor. No president has been impeached twice. What’s extra, no president has been tried by the Senate after he has left workplace. That query of whether or not a president now not in workplace may be tried for impeachment is a big difficulty that divides constitutional students over what is legally permissible.

Democrats have stated a trial is critical to make sure accountability for the assault. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could maintain a second vote to disqualify him from searching for workplace once more.

But Republicans say the trial is moot, on condition that Trump is out of workplace. And they argue the trial is unconstitutional. 

What the trial will appear like is but to be seen. House Democrats on Thursday requested Trump to testify below oath for the trial. Trump later that day declined. 

Here’s a take a look at how issues could end up.  

What would it not take to convict Trump? 

At least two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, is required to convict Trump. This is a very excessive hurdle for the prosecution to beat on condition that the Senate is basically break up 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. A complete of 17 Republican senators must break ranks with the vast majority of the occasion to vote to question Trump. 

While members of the Senate have historically not been as populist because the House, there’s nonetheless fairly a little bit of assist for Trump within the Republican occasion and amongst Senate Republicans, who concern main challenges in the event that they had been to cross Trump and vote for conviction. 

An early signal of simply how robust that hurdle could be got here on Jan. 26 when two-thirds of Republican senators voted towards a measure that may have halted the chamber from transferring ahead on impeachment. 

Just as a reference, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to interrupt together with his occasion to vote to convict Trump for abuse of energy within the first impeachment trial. But Romney together with 4 different Republican Senators voted to kill the objection to forgo this second impeachment trial. Those different senators had been Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. 

There’s nonetheless a giant query about how Republican minority chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky might vote.

Last month, McConnell publicly blamed Trump partly for feeding “lies” to the mob that stormed the Capitol. He privately signaled he could also be open to conviction. But then he sided with the measure put forth by Sen. Rand Paul, a fellow Republican from Kentucky, that stated the trial is unconstitutional. 

“I’m going to listen to the arguments,” McConnell has reportedly stated. “That’s what we ought to do. That’s what I said before it started. That’s still my view. The issue on which we already voted is an interesting constitutional question. I think we ought to listen to the lawyers argue the question.”

What would a conviction imply?

Given that Trump is now not president, a conviction would not take away him from workplace. But it might be a really public rebuke of his actions following the election and main as much as the riot.

A conviction wouldn’t lead to Trump dropping any of his advantages as a previous president. The Former Presidents Act, handed in 1958, spells out the advantages that previous presidents are entitled to, and it solely withholds sure privileges, reminiscent of his pension and Secret Service element,  if a president is eliminated or terminated from service by impeachment and conviction. Trump’s time period was not terminated that means, so a conviction means he would nonetheless be entitled to those perks. 

What about different ‘punishments’ ensuing from a conviction?

If the Senate had been to convict, it could maintain one other vote to disqualify Trump from holding federal workplace sooner or later. This vote would solely require a easy majority. This would forestall Trump from working once more for president once more in 2024, as he has indicated he may do. He additionally would not have the ability to run for a House seat or Senate seat if he is barred from holding federal workplace. 

Of course, the vote to bar a president from holding workplace has never been examined earlier than. No US president has ever been convicted of impeachment. And the Senate has by no means voted to bar a former president from holding workplace once more. So if this state of affairs had been to play out, there could be a lawsuit difficult this vote in court docket. 

Another factor to bear in mind is that if Trump had been convicted and the Senate voted to bar him from federal workplace, his affect could nonetheless loom giant in American politics. He could nonetheless supply commentary and endorsements, in addition to maintain rallies. In different phrases, a vote to cease him from working for workplace once more would not essentially imply the top of Donald Trump and the MAGA motion. 

What occurs if Trump is acquitted?

As occurred in his first impeachment, Trump could be acquitted by the Senate. This vote to acquit would not imply a lot in sensible phrases, since he’s now not president. But it might possible function one other rallying cry for Trump and his base simply because the earlier acquittal was. 

An acquittal would additionally imply that the Senate wouldn’t vote to bar him from working for federal workplace. So Trump could, in concept, make a run for the presidency in 2024. 

Could Trump be censured?

Yes. The Senate could vote to censure, which is solely a proper assertion of disapproval. The consequence of censure is nonbinding, which suggests there aren’t any authorized ramifications. But it is a formal mode of disciplining a public official, reminiscent of a US president. And it serves as a sort of public shaming.

There are a handful of lawmakers who’ve pushed for censure. Sens. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia; Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware; and Maine’s Susan Collins have floated this concept. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York hasn’t shut the door on censure if Democrats cannot get a conviction. 

“I think the president should be tried. I hope he will [get a] vote to be convicted,” Schumer instructed reporters final week. “Anything past that is something we can discuss, but he deserves conviction, nothing less.”

But it is nonetheless unclear if Democrats would go this route in the event that they fail to get the votes to convict.