Explainer: How Donald Trump's Second Impeachment Course of Will Work


Impeachment of Donald Trump: Trump's first trial was based on evidence the House exposed over several months, over a private phone call between Trump and the President of Ukraine, and before and after closed-door meetings. (Representative image; AP photo / file)

Former President Donald Trump's historic second impeachment trial begins Tuesday, forcing the Senate to decide whether he should be convicted of incitement to insurgency after a violent crowd of his supporters besieged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

With Trump's acquittal expected, all 100 senators must first sit at their desks and hear graphical statements from House Democrats for hours about the riot that left five people dead. The House indicted Trump on January 13, a week after the violence.

Also read | The House's impeachment managers ask Donald Trump to testify, his lawyers call it a "PR stunt".

A look at the basics of the impeachment trial:


The Constitution says that the House has sole power to impeach, while the Senate has sole power to put the individual on trial. The accused – the president, vice president, or civil servant of the United States – can be tried by two-thirds of the senators present.

The House appoints managers to prosecutors who sit with the defendant's attorneys in the Senate to present their case. Trump's prosecution and defense team have a set amount of time to make arguments. Then the senators can ask questions in writing before a final vote.

The United States Chief Justice usually leads the trial of a president, but with Trump stepping down, the Chairman will be Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Who is the longest ceremonial head of the Senate. Acting member of the majority party.

Once the senators have a final vote on the impeachment charge – this time there is only one, incitement to insurrection – any legislature will stand up and cast their vote: guilty or not guilty.

How long does the process take?

Not clear. The Senate has to approve the rules of the process, and the party leaders are still working on the details.

Trump's first impeachment trial, in which he was acquitted of abuse of power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate current President Joe Biden, lasted almost three weeks. However, this case is expected to be shorter as the case is less complicated and the senators already know many details as they were in the Capitol during the uprising.

And while the Democrats want to make sure they have enough time to take their case, they don't want to keep the Senate long. The Senate cannot confirm Biden's cabinet candidates and will only move forward with their legislative priorities like COVID-19 relief after the process is complete.


Republican and Trump lawyers argue that the process is unnecessary and even unconstitutional as Trump is no longer president and cannot be removed from office. Democrats disagree, citing the opinions of many legal scholars and the impeachment of a former Secretary of War, William Belknap, who resigned in 1876 just hours before he was charged with a backlash plan.

While Belknap was eventually acquitted, the Senate went through a full process. And this time the House indicted Trump while he was president, seven days before Biden's inauguration.

If Trump were convicted, the Senate could cast a second vote to ban him from taking office again. Democrats consider this an appropriate punishment after telling the angry mob of his supporters to "fight like hell" to overcome his electoral defeat.

Democrats also argue that there should be no “January exception” for presidents who commit criminal acts shortly before they step down from office. They say the process is necessary not only to properly hold Trump accountable, but also to deal with what happened and move forward.

"You can't go on until you have justice," House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said this week. "If we didn't investigate, we might as well remove any punishment from the impeachment constitution."


Trump's first trial was based on evidence revealed by the House over several months, over a private phone call between Trump and the President of Ukraine, and before and after closed-circuit meetings. Democrats conducted a lengthy investigation and then put together a report of their findings.

In contrast, the second trial will be based almost entirely on the visceral experience of an insurrection directed against the senators themselves in the Capitol. The insurgents even violated the Senate Chamber where the trial will take place.

The new January 6 reminders may make it easier for the House's impeachment managers to take their case, but that doesn't mean the outcome will be any different. Trump was acquitted in his first trial a year ago on Friday when only one Republican, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, voted for one conviction, and this time there may not be many guilty votes left.

In a test vote on Jan. 26, only five Senate Republicans voted against an attempt to stand down, an early sign that Trump is likely to be acquitted again.

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Steven Gregory