(EFE).- The US Senate on Tuesday afternoon voted to declare the impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump constitutional, although 44 Republican senators voted against the measure.
Arriving at the 56-44 vote, after four hours of debate on the matter and then the vote itself in the Senate chamber, took up the first day of impeachment proceedings against the ex-president, who is being impeached for the second time, this time for “incitement to insurrection” for egging on an enraged and unruly mob of his supporters to violently storm the US Capitol building on Jan. 6, an attack that resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol police officer, who was beaten to death by the attackers.
The Senate had already voted – in a nonbinding move – in late January on whether lawmakers considered the impeachment trial to be constitutional and at that time 45 GOP senators had voted against holding the trial claiming that it would be unconstitutional to do so.
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy joined his GOP colleagues Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey in voting with the Democratic block of 50 senators to declare the proceedings to be legal.
The upper house voted after Democratic lawmakers acting as impeachment “managers” presented their position on the constitutionality of the proceedings for some 90 minutes and then Trump’s defense team presented their arguments against impeachment for some two hours.
The debate on the constitutionality of the proceedings was being seen by many observers and lawmakers as a life preserver for those Republicans who are most uncomfortable with Trump but who do not dare to completely turn their backs on him. In effect, they can use a vote against holding the trial as proof that they did not want to convict him, regardless of other votes that they might cast after hearing the evidence against him during the course of the trial.
It was widely expected that the Senate would decide that the proceedings are constitutional, since that decision required only a simple majority.
Now, the trial will resume on Wednesday at noon, when arguments by the prosecutors and Trump’s defense will commence and theoretically senators will then have to evaluate and decide on the merit of those arguments rather than whether the trial is valid or not.
In the days leading up to the start of the trial, numerous constitutional experts had expressed the opinion that the impeachment proceedings are legitimate even if the process cannot result in Trump’s removal from office – given that he is already an ex-president – because it evaluates deeds, facts and events that occurred when he still occupied the White House.
Trump’s second impeachment trial got under way on Tuesday at 1 pm in a deeply divided US Senate, where it will be difficult to convict him for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol building by a violent mob of his followers.
The 100 senators are acting as jurors in the trial and will be tasked with evaluating the single impeachment charge of “inciting to insurrection” filed against Trump by Democrats for urging the mob to march on the Capitol in a tumultuous and violent attack that damaged much federal property, terrorised lawmakers and staffers, left five people dead and injured some 140 police officers.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy inaugurated the proceedings and will preside over the impeachment trial.
The session began with a vote on the rules that will govern the proceedings, and they were approved by an 89-11 margin.
Prior to that vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had urged GOP senators to pay “very real attention to the evidence here because it’s very, very serious.”
“The Senate has a solemn responsibility to try and hold Donald Trump accountable for the most serious charges ever, ever levied against a president,” he said, calling the impeachment proceedings the constitutional duty of the legislators.
The Democratic managers of the impeachment argued in a document presented on Monday and will argue at the actual trial that there is no “January exception” allowing presidents to abuse their office during their last few days in power without expecting to face the consequences of such actions.
Some Republicans have claimed that Trump should not be prosecuted for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot because he was due to leave office within two weeks anyway.
Now, after the question about the constitutionality of the proceedings has been settled, it is expected that the trial will move forward quickly and possibly be finalized by next week, although it is improbable that it will end with Trump being convicted given that two-thirds of the senators, or 67 votes in all, must vote to convict the ex-president, and Democrats control only 50 seats in the upper chamber.
The proceedings, nevertheless, will go down in history for two reasons, namely because Trump is the first US president to face two impeachment trials – the first one ending in his acquittal in February 2020 for trying to put political pressure on Ukraine – and because never before has a US president been impeached when he was no longer in office.
The charge against Trump stems from his actions on Jan. 6, when he egged on a huge crowd of his supporters to march on the Capitol, where lawmakers from both chambers were gathered to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, a loss that Trump has never acknowledged, claiming – without any evidence – that only massive vote fraud by the Democrats had denied him reelection.
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