WASHINGTON: Former US President Donald Trump is going on trial on late on Tuesday for a second impeachment with the week-long spectacle expected to define the contours of US politics for the next few years.
Managers from the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which has already impeached him, will seek to make the case during a four-hour opening debate that Trump instigated the deadly January 6 insurrection and riots and he should be convicted and disqualified from holding public office ever again.
Trump attorneys are expected to counter with the argument that it is not constitutionally tenable to try a president who has already left office besides invoking First Amendment defense for his rhetoric critics claim inflamed the mob. In a brief filed on Monday, his lawyers asked the Senate, which acts as a jury, to dismiss the case, calling it unconstitutional political theater.
The issue has divided the legal and constitutional fraternity with even some conservative scholars conceding that a former president is not beyond the law that confers immunity to a sitting President. But beyond all the legal arguments, which Democrats privately admit will still not result in a Trump conviction, the drama is expected to have immense political repercussions for the US body politic, particularly on the Grand Old Party, as the Republican Party is often called.
Last week, more than 140 constitutional lawyers called the Trump attorney’s defense as “legally frivolous.” even as a Trump spokesman said the Senate trial was a charade to inflict political damage the still-powerful former president.
Previews of the trial, including a Senate vote two weeks ago in which 45 Republican lawmakers said the trial was unconstitutional, suggest there is little chance of a Trump conviction, which will require a two-third majority in the chamber that is tied at 50-50. No Republican has publicly changed his or her mind.
Many of them want to get a sense of how much sway Trump holds over the rank and file of the party before considering whether to throw him under the bus. Surveys show the former President still holds sway over the party and could have those who defy him defeated in party polls.
The proceedings are expected to last only a week — making it the quickest impeachment trial in history — with both sides taking up to 16 hours to make their case before a final vote next week. Regardless of the outcome, Trump will still have the dubious distinction of being the only US President to be twice impeached by the House of Representatives. He was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate last year over charges that he had pressured Ukraine for political dirt on his opponents.

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