Day one of the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump has ended. Both sides presented their arguments for why this silly ploy is constitutional or not. Both sides will be given four hours to make their points. It didn’t take nearly that long. It formally kicked off at 1 PM and it concluded a little after 5 PM. The final vote on the constitutionality of this trial merely requires a simple majority, which was a forgone conclusion. In a 56-44 vote, the US Senate said it was constitutional to proceed. The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 12 PM to start oral arguments (via Fox News):
Trump's legal team said the trial is unconstitutional because he's no longer in office and can't face removal, which is the standard judgment of an impeachment conviction.
"President Trump is no longer in office. The object of the Constitution has been achieved. He has been removed by the voters," Bruce Castor, a Trump attorney, said.
Another Trump lawyer David Schoen said impeachment is moot.
"Presidents are impeachable because they are removable," Schoen said. "Former presidents are not because they cannot be removed."
House Democrats made the case that not only is there precedent for proceeding with impeachment for a federal official who is out of office, but it's the right thing to do to hold presidents accountable.
They pointed to the 1876 corruption case of William Belknap, President Ulysses Grant's war secretary, who was impeached and tried by the Senate after leaving office.
The usual Republican squishes defected, of course. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) all joined Democrats in this motion. There was another defection as well: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
Mitch McConnell just voted that it's unconstitutional to try a former president after he blocked a trial of Trump while he was president.— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) February 9, 2021
McConnell is a NO again on constitutionality.— Dave Catanese (@davecatanese) February 9, 2021
After Schoen wraps, Raskin says they yield their 33 minutes of rebuttal back to the Senate.— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) February 9, 2021
Everyone happy with that I'm sure
CASSIDY (R-La.) votes that the Senate trial is constitutional; he previously voted that it was unconstitutional— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) February 9, 2021
Cassidy to reporters earlier, re: the impeachment managers' case: “I’m trying to digest facts. And I thought the arguments they gave were strong arguments.” https://t.co/YFsZYyH2kZ— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) February 9, 2021
Vote on constitutionality of the trial has barely changed. Bill Cassidy is a yes, but everyone else has stayed in place.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 9, 2021
“I’m trying to digest facts. And I thought the arguments they gave were strong arguments,” he said.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) votes that the Trump trial IS constitutional. He voted for Rand Paul’s procedural motion. So that’s a significant change.— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) February 9, 2021
This vote is a major blow for the managers. They didn’t flip retiring members like Portman and Burr, they didn’t flip GOP leadership... a conviction now extraordinarily unlikely.— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) February 9, 2021
56-44, Senate votes to affirm constitutionality of trying a former president. GOP ayes:— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) February 9, 2021
Is it significant? Some journalists said so, but it’s not. NBC News’ Garrett Haake wrote, “this vote is a major blow for the managers. They didn’t flip retiring members like Portman and Burr, they didn’t flip GOP leadership... a conviction now extraordinarily unlikely.”
And we knew this from the start. The votes were there to have an impeachment trial, but not enough for a conviction. Impeachment has become just another political tool that can be whipped out and used against people with whom you despise. That’s the new precedent Democrats have set. In the meantime, COVID relief remains in limbo, divisions have deepened, and Trump’s mantra of ‘all talk, no action’ was on full display here. Nothing will come of this—nothing. And Congress’ fetish with focusing on the theatrics that does next to nothing to help the American people is why populism is rising. It’s why our institutions are viewed as a joke. It’s why Congress sucks. These people aren’t doing their jobs and like public-sector unions or tenured professors, they remain in this swamp. This town is killing the country—and this impeachment circus is just another chapter in the annals of the political class’ increasing indifference towards the people who sent them there.