- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Senate voted Tuesday to proceed with the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and brushing aside complaints by Mr. Trump’s defense attorneys that Democrats are waging an unconstitutional effort to bar him from a political comeback and to disenfranchise his supporters.

After a sometimes emotional four hours of debate, senators voted 56-44 that putting the former president on trial is constitutional. Six Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in agreeing to move forward with the heart of the case, beginning Wednesday.

In their first full-throated defense of Mr. Trump since the House impeached him on Jan. 13, his attorneys said Democrats’ true motive is to eliminate the political opponent they fear the most in 2024 by disqualifying him from holding federal office.

Defense attorney David Schoen said the nation “cannot possibly heal” with a trial of Mr. Trump.

“A great many Americans see this process for exactly what it is: a chance by a group of partisan politicians seeking to eliminate Donald Trump from the American political scene and seeking to disenfranchise 74 million-plus American voters and those who dare to share their political beliefs and vision of America,” Mr. Schoen told senators. “This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have only seen once before in our history.”

He said the trial of a private citizen is “nothing less than the political weaponization of the impeachment process — pure, raw sport fueled by the misguided idea of party over country.”

Democrats said Mr. Trump must be held accountable for inciting a large mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol as lawmakers were counting the Electoral College votes that gave Joseph R. Biden his presidential victory.

Five people died in the attack. They included a Capitol Police officer and four Trump supporters, one of whom was shot by police. Two other police officers later took their own lives.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, called the impeachment case “the gravest charges ever brought against a president of the United States in American history.”

Despite the dramatic rhetoric, Mr. Trump’s acquittal is not in doubt. Seventeen Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats to reach the two-thirds vote needed to convict Mr. Trump.

The six Republicans who voted in favor of proceeding with the trial were Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania. Mr. Cassidy voted two weeks ago in a nonbinding measure against the idea of putting a former president on trial.

Mr. Toomey said the impeachment managers made “very strong arguments.” He said Mr. Trump’s attorneys had “a weaker case to start with. … I don’t think it was very persuasive.”

Several Republicans criticized Trump attorney Bruce Castor, a former district attorney from Pennsylvania, for making an ineffective argument. Mr. Castor, who joined the legal team only last week, started by referring to himself as the “lead prosecutor” before correcting himself.

“He just rambled on and on and on,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”

Ms. Murkowski said she was “stunned” by Mr. Castor’s opening arguments, which seemed to her to lack a point.

“I couldn’t figure out where he was going. [He] spent 45 minutes going somewhere, but I don’t think he helped with us better understanding where he was coming from on the constitutionality of this,” she said.

Mr. Trump reportedly was angry with the performance of Mr. Castor, but the defense attorney said, “I thought we had a good day.”

Mr. Castor said he didn’t plan any changes in his strategy.

At the White House, Mr. Biden said he wasn’t watching the trial. He told reporters that he was too busy working with Congress on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

“Children are going to bed hungry. A lot of families are food-insecure. They are in trouble. That’s my job,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Trump is not attending the trial. He has chosen to remain at his home in Palm Beach, Florida. Several of his allies, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, were in the Senate conferring with Mr. Trump’s legal team.

Mr. Meadows said the impeachment managers were not making their case.

“It’s hard to make a good case when you have an unconstitutional process,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think the results are a foregone conclusion.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat and the lead House impeachment manager, said the case is “based on cold, hard facts.” He showed senators a lengthy video montage of the attack on Jan. 6, beginning with Mr. Trump’s speech to supporters near the White House.

“We will stop the steal,” Mr. Trump said, urging the crowd to walk to the Capitol. “We won this election, and we won it in a landslide.”

The video includes a clip of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on the Senate floor backing the Electoral College results as fair and free. Outside, Trump supporters were trying to force their way into the Capitol.

What followed on the video were scenes now familiar to most Americans: people fighting with police, chants of “fight for Trump” and the eventual breach of the Capitol’s defense to storm inside. Lawmakers were evacuated as demonstrators smashed windows, broke down doors and invaded the House and Senate chambers.

Mr. Raskin said at the end of the video, “If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing.”

The impeachment managers sought common ground with the senators, who are also jurors, by comparing their experiences as victims of the mob of Trump supporters.

A tearful Mr. Raskin invoked the suicide of his son and the terror of his family during the riot.

He briefly sobbed and covered his eyes with one hand on the Senate floor as he described the fear of his adult daughter Tabitha, who was present during the Capitol attack. She had been separated from Mr. Raskin during the riot by Trump supporters, and they were reunited by police about an hour later.

“I promised her that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me,” Mr. Raskin said. “And you know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.’”

The lawmaker told senators, “Of all the brutal things I saw and I heard on that day and since, that one hit me the hardest.”

He said his family members visited the Capitol with him on Jan. 6 because they had buried his son, Tommy, a day earlier. Tommy Raskin, 25, took his own life on Dec. 31.

“They wanted to be with me in the middle of a devastating week for our family,” Mr. Raskin said.

Another impeachment manager, Rep. Joe Neguse, Colorado Democrat, also personalized the attack for senators.

“Like every one of you, I was in the Capitol on Jan. 6,” Mr. Neguse said. “Like every one of you, I was evacuated as this violent mob stormed the Capitol’s gates. What you experienced that day, what I experienced that day, what our country experienced that day — is the Framers’ worst nightmare come to life. Presidents can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened.”

The Trump legal team also showed senators a video — a montage of prominent Democrats including Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Mr. Raskin — calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment as far back as 2017.

Mr. Castor said Democrats were trying to punish Mr. Trump unfairly for political speech and that people who committed crimes at the Capitol “should be locked up.”

“You will not hear any member of the team representing former President Trump say anything but in the strongest possible way denounce the violence of the rioters and those that breached the Capitol,” he said.

He said the real reason for the trial is “because the majority in the House of Representatives does not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival in the future.”

Mr. Castor rebutted Mr. Trump’s long-running argument that the election was rigged. He said voters are “smart enough to pick a new administration if they don’t like the old one, and they just did.”

But he also warned senators that a partisan-motivated impeachment by Democrats will cause “the floodgates to open” in retaliation when Republicans control the House and Senate again someday.

“The political pendulum will shift one day,” he said. “This chamber, and the chamber across the way, will change one day, and partisan impeachments will become commonplace. People back home will demand that their House members continue the cycle as political fortunes rise and fall. The only entity that stands between the bitter infighting that led to the downfall of the Greek republic and the Roman republic and the American republic is the Senate of the United States.”

Democrats said Mr. Trump or any other president should not be allowed a “January exception” to engage in illegal behavior immediately before leaving office.

Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, another impeachment manager, said Mr. Trump sent an angry mob to the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power, an act the lawmaker called an “unforgivable betrayal of the oath of office.”

“If you think about that day, things could have been much worse,” Mr. Cicilline said. “As one senator said, ‘They could have killed all of us.’”

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