Debate In First Day Of Senate Impeachment Trial Centers On Constitutionality

Tuesday, February 9th 2021, 5:45 pm


Day one in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump started with debate over whether the trial should even be happening. It’s a question of the constitutionality of trying a president who is no longer in office.

The Constitution states that the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment and that the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. The dispute over how far the Senate's jurisdiction reaches comes from Article I, Section 3: "Judgment in cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States."

Counsel for former President Trump argue that this clearly means the punishment envisioned by the Founders for an impeachment conviction is removal and disqualification, and he is now 'Citizen' Trump - out of office - the purpose of impeachment has already been satisfied and the Senate no longer has jurisdiction.

Leader House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, (D) MD, told Senators today that is preposterous.

"Even if the evidence proves, as we think it definitively does, that the president incited a violent insurrection on the day Congress met to finalize the presidential election, he would have you believe there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it," Rep. Raskin said.

Rep. Joe Neguse, (D) CO, another of the nine impeachment managers, said it would defy logic for the framers to have intended for the Senate to be powerless to try a president simply because he resigned or left office shortly after committing his alleged offense.

"The framers didn't mince words," Rep. Neguse said. "They provided express, absolute, unqualified grants of jurisdictional power to the House to impeach and to the Senate to try all impeachments. Not some. All."

Rep. Raskin said, not only does the Senate have the jurisdiction to try Mr. Trump, they must, for the good of the country.

"This cannot be the future of America," said Raskin. "We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions, because they refuse to accept the will of the people under the Constitution of the United States. Much less can we create a new January exception in our precious beloved constitution that prior generations have died for and fought for, so the corrupt presidents have several weeks to get away with whatever it is they want to do."

However, the president's attorneys, who detailed the many ways they believe Mr. Trump was denied due process by the House as Democratic leaders rammed the impeachment through, nearly laughed at the House managers' notion of a 'January exception.'

"If my colleagues on this side of the chamber actually think that President Trump committed a criminal offense—and let's understand, a 'high crime' is a felony and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor," said Bruce Canton, one of the attorneys representing the former president. "After he's out of office, you go and arrest him. So there is no opportunity where the president of the United States can run rampant in January at the end of his term and just go away scot-free."

David Schoen, another of Trump's lawyers, pleaded with Senators to dismiss the case, arguing it would do great damage to the country.

"Esteemed members of the Senate, going forward with this impeachment trial of a former president of the United States is unconstitutional for reasons we have set out in our brief," Schoen said.

44 Republicans agreed with that position and voted against continuing with the case, but six GOP Senators joined all the Democrats in defeating the motion. The trial will resume Tuesday at noon when the impeachment managers will begin laying out their case that the former president incited the January 6 insurrection.