By Ariel Steinsaltz
On Jan. 13, Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached for a second time, only a week before he left office. The House voted on articles of impeachment accusing President Trump of inciting the violent insurrection on Jan. 6. A Senate trial for the former president is set to begin on Feb. 9 and if convicted, Trump could be prevented from running for future public office, according to the Washington Post.
The articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate on Jan. 25, and Senate leaders agreed to delay the trial for two weeks to give lawyers time to mount a defense. The delay also allowed Biden to work on trying to get his Cabinet approved by the Senate and passing a coronavirus relief package, according to the Washington Post.
Trump struggled to find lawyers willing to take on the case. On Jan. 30, with more than a week remaining before the beginning of the impeachment trial, five attorneys quit Trump’s legal team, supposedly over a disagreement on legal strategy.
According to CNN, Trump was insisting on focusing the case on election fraud and the fact that the election was stolen from him, rather than the case the attorneys wanted to build that impeaching a president who has already left office is unconstitutional. On Sunday, Trump announced that his defense would be led by Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen. Both have controversial legal histories; Schoen met with Jeffrey Epstein days before his death, and Castor in 2005 declined to prosecute Bill Cosby, according to CNN.
On Tuesday, both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s new defense team filed briefs previewing their strategies for the upcoming trial, according to the Washington Post. The House brief called Trump “singularly responsible” for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and said that if provoking insurrection was not an impeachable offense, “it is hard to imagine what would be.”
The brief by Trump’s legal team said that it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for Trump after he has already left office, and that Trump’s right to question the election was protected by the first amendment.
Trump’s team misspelled “United States” in their briefing, earning mockery according to Newsweek.
On Wednesday, hundreds of congressional staffers published an open letter to the Senate, recounting their experiences during the attack on the Capitol building and holding Trump responsible. In the letter, they begged Senators to vote to convict Trump.
“Our Constitution only works when we believe in it and defend it,” they wrote. “Either you stand with the republic or against it.”
President Biden commented on the proceedings on Thursday, saying that neglecting to hold Trump’s impeachment trial would “make a mockery of the system,” according to CNET. However, he expressed doubt that the necessary amount of 17 Republican Senators would vote to convict the former president.