WASHINGTON (CN) — As they did one year ago before Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, senators swore an oath of impartiality Tuesday for when they adjudicate a charge of inciting an insurrection against the 45th president in two weeks.
Maryland Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, who leads the House impeachment managers, recited the former reality TV star’s transgressions to senators: the then-president “willfully made statements that in context encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action” at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he said.
That provocation led to the deaths of five people and only the second occupation of the seat of American government since British troops razed the Capitol during the War of 1812.
An article of impeachment was expeditiously drafted a week later, and the House made history by making Trump the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. The Senate is expected to reconvene as a court of impeachment as soon as Tuesday, Feb. 9, after both sides file their legal briefs.
Senators were formally sworn in as impartial jurors Tuesday afternoon, but not before a couple Republicans voiced their disagreement with the proceeding.
Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson said there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the aisle over the impeachment trial now that Trump is a private citizen.
“What I would like my colleagues to consider when they decide how to vote on that is not the unconstitutionality or constitutionality of that, I want them to consider, is it wise?” Johnson said. “Will a trial of a former president, of a private citizen, will it heal? Will it unify? I think the answer is clearly, it will not.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have argued in favor of convicting Trump in the Senate to send a message that presidents can’t wield their power with impunity during their final weeks of office. Senators could also vote to bar Trump from seeking office again if he is convicted by a two-thirds majority.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul questioned the proceeding’s constitutionality, accusing Democrats of “applying a test of incitement to a Republican that they refuse to apply to themselves.”
“I want the Democrats to raise their hands if they have ever given a speech that says ‘take’ ‘back’ ‘fight for your country,’” Paul said. “Who hasn’t used the word ‘fight’ figuratively and are we going to put every politician in jail? Are we going to impeach every politician who has used the word ‘fight’ figurately in a speech? Shame. Shame on these angry, unhinged partisans who are putting fourth this sham impeachment, deranged by their hatred of the former president.”
After senators took their oath Tuesday, Paul continued his line of attack. He noted Chief Justice John Roberts was not presiding over the trial this time, as that role is being filled by Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy, which Paul said shows “this is not the trial of a president, but of a private citizen.”
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Paul’s assessment of the trial’s legality was “flat out wrong by every frame of analysis: constitutional context, historical practice, precedent and basic common sense.”
The notion the Senate cannot impeach a private citizen who formerly served in an official capacity has been debunked by a myriad of legal scholars from both sides of political ideologies, Schumer said. He also noted the nation’s founders had included a clause of disqualification from future office within the tool of impeachment to include those who no longer held office.
“If the framers intended impeachment to merely be a vehicle to remove sitting officials from their office, they would not have included that additional provision: disqualification from future office,” Schumer said.
He added: “It makes no sense whatsoever that a president or any official could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’ impeachment powers and avoid a vote on disqualification by simply resigning.”
Still, 45 Republicans voted alongside Paul to kill Trump’s impeachment trial. Paul’s motion failed, however, by a 55-45 margin.
Senators also approved an organizing resolution for the trial Tuesday by an 83-17 vote, setting up deadlines for the filing of briefs for either side.