What is Donald Trump claiming in his defense?
Trump has had trouble assembling a legal team. His usual personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had to recuse himself because he also gave a speech at the event where the former president is accused of fomenting insurrection. Trump then appears to have fallen out with his first legal team, which was led by Butch Bowers.
Now led by lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L Castor, Trump’s team issued a thinly argued 14-page document last week that said his speech did not amount to a call to storm the Capitol and that his trial was unconstitutional anyway, because he has left office. Trump will not testify personally.
How long will the trial last?
How long the trial will take is not known, but most people believe it will be much shorter than the three-week trial the last time Trump was impeached over his actions over Ukraine, when he was accused of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
It is unclear yet whether the Senate will vote to allow the legal teams to call witnesses in person, although the trial is highly unusual in that the jury are witnesses, as senators were present in the Capitol and were forced into hiding as the mob invaded the very chamber where the trial will be held. The prosecution team are expected to include video footage and eyewitness testimony from members of Congress while building their case.
Will Trump be found guilty?
On the face of it, it seems unlikely. An impeachment trial requires a two-thirds majority for a conviction. If every senator votes, then at least 17 Republicans would need to vote against their former president to reach the required 67-vote threshold.
Already, 45 senators have supported a motion presented by Kentucky Sen Rand Paul that the process itself is unconstitutional and against holding the trial at all. It would be quite a leap for them in the space of a few weeks to go from saying the trial should not take place, to finding Trump guilty.
For many Republican senators the calculation is political. House Representatives who voted to impeach Trump, such as Republican Liz Cheney, have already faced protest and censure from their state Republican parties over their failure to back Trump, who still has strong grassroots support despite losing November’s election.
Will a second impeachment bar Trump running from office in 2024?
Not necessarily. If he was found guilty, there’s no immediate punishment, since he is no longer in office. The Senate could, with a simple majority vote, bar him from holding federal elective office in the future. With the Senate split 50-50, and the vice-president, Kamala Harris, holding the casting vote, that could pass quite simply.
There is a constitutional argument to be had that the Democrat-controlled Senate might try to do this anyway even if Trump is found not guilty, by invoking section three of the post-civil war 14th amendment to the US constitution. That forbids anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the US from holding federal office, but that is likely to be the subject of a significant legal dispute should it arise.