This week, President Donald J. Trump became only the second U.S. President formally impeached to be put on trial in U.S. history. President Richard M. Nixon was facing impeachment when he resigned from office in Aug. 1974.
Trump was charged by the House of Representatives with two articles of impeachment charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Last month the House voted almost entirely along party lines to impeach Trump. The vote for abuse of power was 230-197 and the vote for obstruction of Congress 229-198.
Trump’s impeachment followed the revelation that he tried to pressure the President of the Ukraine to falsely accuse Democratic Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, of corruption in order to harm Biden’s reputation in advance of the November 2020 Presidential Election.
The president refused to release a badly needed $400 million in funds allocated by Congress to Ukraine; a U.S. ally, for their defense – Ukraine is in the middle of a hot war with Russia – if their President Volodymyr Zelensky, did not do as Trump demanded.
So, he basically was impeached for attempting to commit extortion or the blackmail of another president in order to cheat and rig the 2020 Presidential Election.
Now the case is in the U.S. Senate where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released the impeachment rules that the Democrats and Capitol Hill observers claim are rigged to acquit President Trump.
According to NBC News, the rules would set aside up to four hours of debate, equally divided between both sides, on whether there should be subpoenas for witnesses or documents, and then the full Senate would vote on the issue. A vote on whether to call witnesses to testify in the Senate is not expected to take place until after opening arguments have concluded.
Chief Justice John Roberts and senators have already been sworn in and the lead House manager, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has read the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The House managers — essentially prosecutors — submitted briefs explaining their rational why the Senate should remove Trump from office. The president’s legal team submitted filings explaining why he should be acquitted, according to the NBC News report, Trump impeachment trial: The rules and everything else you need to know.
The entire Senate is the jury, but it also has some judge-like powers. In addition to voting on procedures and evidence, senators can submit objections to Roberts. They’re not allowed to directly question attorneys for the two sides, but they can offer questions to Roberts, who will read them.
Representing the House as the prosecutor are seven Democrats Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries of New York; Jason Crow of Colorado; Zoe Lofgren of California; Val Demings of Florida; and Sylvia Garcia of Texas.
President Trump’s legal team includes White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, and former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated Clinton, O.J. Simpson defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Robert Ray. Also, Republican Reps. Doug Collins (Ga.), Mike Johnson (La.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), John Ratcliffe (Texas), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) who will handle media for Trump.
According to NBC each side would have up to 24 hours to present its opening statement. Neither side has to use the all of its time. The 24 hours would be split over two days for each side; during Clinton’s trial, time was spaced out over three days. The trial is expected to take place six days a week, Monday through Saturday.
The last impeachment trial of a president was and President Bill Clinton in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice. His impeachment followed his confession of a sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. It came more than 100 years after the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, for firing a cabinet secretary without the consent of Congress.
Johnson, who succeeded slain President Abraham Lincoln who was assassinated following the end of the civil war, was an avowed racist from Tennessee. He was essentially impeached for using his office to reverse the outcome of the Civil War and nullify civil rights laws extended to the previously enslaved African Americans.
Both Clinton and Johnson were acquitted, and remained in office.
In a December 20, 2019 article on impeachment on the CNN website “Impeachment Fast Facts,” it notes President Richard M. Nixon faced possible impeachment on the grounds of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress in relation to the Watergate scandal. He resigned in 1974, before a vote was conducted in the House of Representatives.
In addition to the presidential impeachments, Congress has carried out 17 other trials for federal officials including judges, a cabinet member and a senator.
By Whitney Gresham