Impeachment Trial, Day 1: Senate Votes to Proceed With Trial, Rejecting Trump's Argument That It Was Unconstitutional

In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, David Schoen, defense lawyer for former President Donald Trump speaks while holding a copy of the Constitution on the first day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.
In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, David Schoen, defense lawyer for former President Donald Trump speaks while holding a copy of the Constitution on the first day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Photo: congress.gov via Getty Images (Getty Images)

The first day of the historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump provided his lawyers an opportunity to prove that the trial was unconstitutional and therefore should not proceed, an argument the Senate rejected in a mostly party line vote of 56 to 44.

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) delivered a powerful opening argument, and he started by using the words of Trump and his supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Video of rioters screaming “fuck you police” and other expletives that were hurled at law enforcement were on full display in the opening minutes. Much of the video showed rioters storming the House floor and verbally threaten members of Congress, interspersed with clips of members fleeing the floor or seeking shelter. Throughout the first of four hours, Raskin—who buried his son the day before the Capitol insurrection—struggled to hold back tears as he recounted a story of telling his daughter that it was safe to go to the Capitol but later regretting giving her that assurance.

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After hearing Raskin, who is said to be well-liked by many member on both sides of the aisle, you have to wonder if he was checking to see if his GOP colleagues had hearts as much as he was arguing to prosecute Trump.

Another star of the trial was 36-year-old House impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo), who wowed many political commentators with his sophistication and ease with which he delivered his case for holding Trump accountable.

Here is what CNN had to say about him:

The Colorado congressman was a litigator in private practice prior to being elected to Congress in 2018. And it sure showed during his breakdown of the key question of the first day of the trial: Is it, in fact, unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president? Neguse repeatedly went right to the text of our founding document to make his case that it was, in fact, entirely within the bounds of the Constitution to do so. (Even the textualists among Republican senators had to be at least a little impressed with Neguse’s close reading and expert analysis.) For Democrats looking for young stars in the making, Neguse has to be near or at the top of that list after his compelling and convincing performance on Tuesday. At 36 years old, he’s got a lot of time to decide what interests him most — rising through the ranks in the House or running statewide for governor or Senate down the line. But Neguse has the makings of a future face of the national Democratic Party — and he showed why on Tuesday.

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Simply put: That boy is good.

Then came Trump’s defense team, whose legal arguments were as messy as messy can get. GOP Sen. John Cornyn told reporters after the proceedings that Trump’s team was “not one of the finest I’ve seen.”

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Coryn was referring to Bruce Castor, who inaccurately suggested that “high crimes and misdemeanors” must be criminal offenses. Word is, Trump was reportedly pissed at Castor’s performance. We should not be too surprised that Castor’s first day was messy because the team was put together a week ago.

“And then I thought the president’s lawyer, the first lawyer, just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument,” Cornyn said. “Finally the second lawyer got around to it, and I thought, did an effective job.”

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The second lawyer would be David Schoen, who ended up trending on social media for something other than his legal skills. Twitter was perplexed when Schoen covered his head while drinking from a bottle of water, which some people on Twitter said was in line with a Jewish tradition that requires an observant Jew to cover his head and say a prayer whenever he eats or drinks.

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Schoen criticized the House managers for showing the insurrection video, arguing that it was “‘designed by experts to chill and horrify you and our fellow Americans’ as if an impeachment trial were ‘some sort of blood sport,’” according to the New York Times.

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Schoen’s argument boiled down to the same party line Republicans have been singing since the insurrection: holding another impeachment trial will only divide the country.

“This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we’ve only seen once before in our history,” Schoen said, making a reference to the Civil War, the Times notes. “As a matter of policy, it is wrong, as wrong can be for all of us as a nation.”

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With six Republicans joining the 50 Democrats, it was pretty much a formality that the trial would move forward, given that last month the Senate voted 55-45 that the the trial was constitutional.

With that out of the way, on Wednesday, beginning at noon, the House managers and Trump’s defense team will formally begin their opening arguments on whether Trump incited the Capitol riot. Both sides will get up to 16 hours over the course of up to two days to make their case.

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.

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DISCUSSION

breadnmaters
BreadnMaters

“This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we’ve only seen once before in our history,”

You can’t tear apart was has never been healed.