February 9, 2021
House Democratic impeachment managers are set to clash with defense lawyers on Tuesday over whether a president can be tried after leaving office. A vote on the matter will follow the debate. Five GOP senators have previously sided with Democrats about the constitutionality of trying the former president.
The House voted to impeach Mr. Trump last month. The article of impeachment points to a speech Mr. Trump gave on January 6 at a rally preceding a march to the Capitol. The Democratic-majority House accused Mr. Trump of abusing his position in an attempt to prevent Joe Biden from attaining the presidency.
Sixty-seven votes are required to convict Mr. Trump, meaning at least seventeen Republicans would need to join all fifty Democrats. Only five Republicans have indicated they would join the Democrats, though impeachment managers plan to introduce new evidence in the trial to tie Mr. Trump’s to violence. The presentation will resemble a criminal prosecution.
The Democratic impeachment managers will argue a president is not exempt from a trial because impeachable offenses occurred at the end of his administration, but Mr. Trump’s lawyers disagree. The purpose of impeachment is to remove someone from office, and Mr. Trump left office on January 20, 2021. The Constitution is silent on whether impeached officials can avoid trial by leaving office before Senate proceedings begin.
On Monday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said he did not incite the crowd and the rioters who breached the Capitol “did so of their own accord and for their own reasons.”
Four hours are allotted to debate the trial constitutionality. If senators vote to proceed with the trial, Mr. Trump’s defense and the House managers have each side sixteen hours for presentations over several days. Both sides will also have the option to call for a debate and vote on calling witnesses. Democrats last week asked Mr. Trump to testify, but his lawyers declined the invitation.