Otago Daily Times
Emotions high as impeachment trial begins
WASHINGTON: A divided United States Senate voted largely along party lines yesterday to move ahead with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on a charge of inciting the deadly assault on the Capitol, but conviction appears unlikely barring a major shift among Republicans.
The Senate voted 5644 to proceed to the first trial of a former president, rejecting defence lawyers’ argument Trump was beyond the reach of the Senate after having left the White House.
Democrats hope to disqualify Trump from ever again holding public office, but yesterday’s outcome suggested they face long odds. Only six Republican senators joined Democrats to vote in favor of allowing the trial to take place, far short of the 17 needed to secure a conviction.
Convicting Trump would require a twothirds majority.
The vote capped a dramatic day in the Senate. Democrats serving as prosecutors opened the trial with a graphic video interspersing images of the January 6 Capitol violence with clips of Trump’s speech to a crowd of supporters moments earlier urging them to ‘‘fight like hell’’ to overturn his election defeat.
Senators, serving as jurors, watched as screens showed the mob throwing down barriers and hitting police officers at the Capitol. The video included the moment when police guarding the House of Representatives chamber fatally shot protester Ashli Babbitt, one of five people including a police officer who died in the rampage.
The mob attacked police, sent representatives scrambling for safety and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory after Trump had spent two months challenging the election results based on false claims of widespread voting fraud.
‘‘If that’s not an impeachment offence, then there is no such thing,’’ Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who led a team of nine prosecuting the case, said after the video.
He wept as he recounted how relatives he brought to work that day had to shelter in an office.
‘‘They thought they were going to die,’’ he said.
When he invited his family to witness the January 6 election certification, Raskin’s daughter had asked if they would be safe, after hearing thousands of Trump supporters planned to descend on Washington.
‘‘I told them, of course it should be safe. This is the Capitol,’’ Raskin said yesterday.
When the mob breached the Capitol, his daughter Tabitha and other family members were left to huddle in an office off the floor of the House of Representatives.
Raskin said when he finally was reunited with his daughter and soninlaw, he apologised to them and promised things would be better on their next visit.
‘‘And you know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol’,’’ the congressman recalled.
In contrast with the Democrats’ emotional presentation, Trump’s lawyers attacked process, arguing the proceeding was an unconstitutional, partisan effort to close off Trump’s political future.
‘‘What they really want to accomplish here in the name of the constitution is to bar Donald Trump from ever running for political office again, but this is an affront to the constitution no matter who they target today,’’ David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers, told senators.
He denounced the ‘‘insatiable lust for impeachment’’ among Democrats before airing his own video, which stitched together clips of representatives calling for Trump’s impeachment going back to 2017.
Most legal experts have said it is constitutional to have an impeachment trial after an official has left office.
Trump, who was impeached by the Democraticled House on January 13, is the third US president to be impeached, and the only one to be impeached twice.
His defence argued he was exercising his right to free speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment when he addressed supporters before the Capitol attack. — Reuters
❛ I told them, of course it should be safe.
This is the Capitol