Posted by 09 February 2021
The Senate begins deliberating the fate of Donald Trump today. Senators are beginning their trial of the former president after the House of Representatives impeached him last month.
House impeachment managers will be laying out a case that Trump’s words on January 6 incited the Capitol riot that led to the death of two police officers as well as widespread destruction. The president’s lawyers, however, have argued in legal briefs that the trial is unconstitutional and, regardless, Trump’s words are protected by the First Amendment.
This is the first trial of a former president. While he was impeached while still in office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel refused to call the Senate back into session to hold the trial before President Biden was inaugurated. Chief Justice John Roberts, who would preside over a trial of a sitting president, has declined to participate. This gives the president’s lawyers room to argue that the trial is illegitimate, which they support by also pointing to language in the Constitution that talks about removal from office being the penalty for a Senate trial.
The House impeachment managers disagree with that view. They note that the Senate has held trials for other impeached officials who left office. They also point to language in the Constitution that says that another penalty for a guilty verdict is disqualification from holding future office. In late January, the Senate voted 55-45 to reject a point of order raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that a Senate trial of a former president is unconstitutional.
It is unclear how long the Senate trial will take. Two-thirds of the senators must vote to convict Trump in order to find him guilty.
Do you think the Senate trial of former president Trump is unconstitutional?