Donald Trump’s impeachment trial starts

A first test on Tuesday will be on a vote on the constitutionality of the trial, signaling attitudes in the Senate

The Senate opened Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial on Tuesday, the defeated former president charged by the House with inciting the deadly mob attack on the Capitol to overturn the election in what prosecutors call the “most grievous constitutional crime.”

Mr Trump’s lawyers are insisting that he is not guilty of the sole charge of “incitement of insurrection,” his fiery words just a figure of speech as he encouraged a rally crowd to “fight like hell” for his presidency. But prosecutors say he “has no good defense” and they promise new evidence.

The Capitol siege on Jan. 6 stunned the world as rioters stormed the building to try to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye,” the acting sergeant at arms intoned to start the trial.

Mr Trump is the first president to face impeachment charges after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. He remains a challenge to the nation’s civic norms and traditions even in defeat.

Security remains extremely tight at the Capitol, a changed place after the attack, fenced off with razor wire and armed National Guard troops on patrol. The nine House managers walked across the shuttered building to prosecute the case before the Senate.

In an opening prayer, Senate Chaplain Barry Black asked God to “take control of this impeachment trial” and “have mercy on our beloved land.”

With senators gathered as the court of impeachment, sworn to deliver “impartial justice,” the trial is starting with a debate and a vote over whether it’s constitutionally permissible to prosecute Mr Trump after he is no longer in the White House. First, senators were voting on a resolution laying out the trial schedule for the days ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was the senators’ “solemn constitutional duty” to conduct a fair trial of “the gravest charges ever brought against a president.”

Presiding is not the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as has been tradition for the nation’s few presidential impeachment trials, but the chamber’s senior-most member of the majority party, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Acquittal is likely, but the trial will test the nation’s attitude toward his brand of presidential power, the Democrats’ resolve in pursuing him, and the loyalty of Mr Trump’s Republican allies defending him.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that Mr Biden will be busy with the business of the presidency and won’t spend much time watching the televised proceedings. “He’ll leave it to his former colleagues in the Senate,” she said.

A first test on Tuesday will be on a vote on the constitutionality of the trial, signaling attitudes in the Senate. The chamber is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with a two-thirds vote, 67 senators, required for conviction.

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