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Senate votes that Trump's impeachment is constitutional

Former President Donald Trump
Posted at 6:07 AM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 18:04:23-05

Fifty-six senators, including six Republicans, voted on Tuesday that the impeachment of a former president is constitutional during the opening day of the trial. The top argument made by former President Donald Trump's lawyers was that impeaching a former president is unconstitutional.

The most surprising vote was that of Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who previously voted that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional. He told CNN's Maju Raju that the House impeachment managers made a more compelling argument than Trump's defense.

The first day of the trial concluded shortly after 5 p.m. ET, with the house managers and Trump's lawyers speaking for two hours each on arguments for and against the constitutionality of impeaching a former president.

On Wednesday and Thursday, House Democrats will present their arguments for convicting Trump. On Friday and Saturday, Trump's lawyers will respond with their defense.

Previous updates:

UPDATE, 4 p.m. ET: David Schoen, who is now taking his turn for President Donald Trump's defense, is making the argument that impeaching and convicting a former president is unconstitutional. He says that Democrats are attempting to violate the right of voters to choose their representatives. .

UPDATE, 3 p.m. ET: Bruce Castor, a defense attorney representing former Trump, began his team's opening arguments. He started by speaking out against the rioters, setting their actions apart from Trump's rhetoric.

"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," said Castor.

UPDATE, 2:45 p.m. ET: Lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin closed Democrats' opening arguments on Tuesday's vote on Trump's ability to be impeached as a former president with a personal story about the events of Jan. 6.

An emotional Raskin described hosting his family on Capitol Hill on the day of the riot. Raskin said his children were in town following the death of Raskin's middle child, Thomas.

Raskin described his children hiding under desks as protesters breached the Capitol, and became emotional when describing seeing a rioter attack a Capitol police officer with a pole affixed with an American flag.

"This cannot be our future...history does not support a January exception in any way, so why would we support it?" Raskin said.

UPDATE, 2:17 p.m. ET: House impeachment manager Joe Neguse continued Democrats' arguments that Trump can legally be impeached as a former elected official by recounting several past cases where the Senate did just that.

Neguse pointed to the impeachment trial of former Sen. William Bellknap, who resigned amid the "trader post scandal." Bellknap was impeached days later for his role.

While Bellknap was acquitted at trial, Neguse said his impeachment proved that Trump could legally stand trial as a former president.

UPDATE, 1:20 p.m. ET: Proceedings in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump are underway, as Republicans and Democrats debate a measure weighing the legality of impeaching a former president.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Democrats' lead impeachment manager, opened his argument regarding the legality of impeaching a former president by arguing that if impeaching a former president was illegal, there would be no way to hold that president accountable during his final weeks in office.

"(Republicans) argument is if you commit an impeachable offense in your last few weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it,” Raskin said.

He then showed a video showing the events of Jan. 6, and how they unfolded in real-time.

"If that's not a high crime or misdemeanor, I don't know what is," Raskin said.

ORIGINAL STORY: Proceedings for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump will got underway around 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday when House impeachment managers crossed the U.S. Capitol to the Senate chamber.

It was riots in those very same halls of the Capitol on Jan. 6 that led Democrats for the first time in American history to impeach a sitting president for the second time.

On Jan. 13, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on charges that his words in the weeks leading up to the riots “incited an insurrection” in the Capitol that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer.

The trial marks just the fourth presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. Now that Trump has left office, it marks the first time that a former president has faced trial in the Senate.

There’s little doubt among lawmakers that Trump will be acquitted upon the conclusion of the trial.

More than a dozen Republicans would need to join with Democrats in voting to convict Trump. Upon their swearing-in earlier this month, 45 of 50 Republicans voted in favor of a motion that would have stopped the trial in its tracks — a vote that later failed.

The trial will get underway just hours after Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise on the structure of the trial. Both sides agreed to a speedy trial that will likely see proceedings wrapped up in about a week’s time.

According to NPR, Tuesday’s proceedings will determine whether the Senate has the authority to try Trump on impeachment trials now that he’s out of office. The Republican and Democratic caucuses will each be given four hours to state their case before a vote is taken Tuesday night. The trial will proceed with a simple majority vote — which will more than likely happen, given Democrats control the chamber via a tiebreak from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Later in the week, impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team will each be given 16 hours to present its case, broken up over the span of two days. Then, by early next week, Senators will be given four hours total to present questions to both sides before taking the deciding vote.

The final vote on impeachment will likely take place early next week.