On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she will deliver articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate this coming Monday, which sets a timeline for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to agree on rules for the trial. Per Pelosi's delivery, the impeachment trial could begin as early as Tuesday, unless McConnell and Schumer reach another agreement. McConnell is reportedly pushing to delay the proceedings until early February to give the former president time to prepare his defense.
“We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” Pelosi said in a statement.
But because Trump is no longer in office, this impeachment will be different than the last one. When the House of Representatives brought forth articles of impeachment against Trump in 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the main question was whether he should be removed from office. Now, the key difference will be that the second impeachment trial, which charges the former president with inciting an insurrection, will seek to block Trump from ever running for federal office again.
Further, during Trump’s first impeachment proceeding, a Republican majority in the Senate made it harder to convict the president at the time. During a normal impeachment, the House of Representatives can vote to impeach with a simple majority and then will send the matter to the Senate for trial. But a conviction in the Senate can be an uphill battle because two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of a conviction. For these reasons, the Senate acquitted Trump on both charges during his first impeachment, meaning he was impeached in the House but was not removed from office.
At this juncture, there is a Constitutional debate over whether the Senate can even hold such a trial for an ex-president. Some experts say that the now-Democratic majority Senate’s decision to hold a trial is a move into somewhat murky territory. Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's most loyal allies in Congress, suggested that Trump should use that in his favor and argue that a trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. Nevertheless, the courts have no role in determining how lawmakers will wield their constitutional powers.
Moving into the next two weeks, Pelosi said, “Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.” The House impeachment managers will be Jamie Raskin, Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean and Joe Neguse. Each of the impeachment managers and jurors were victims of the January 6 attack, making this trial even more unconventional.
"This was the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America. The most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States," Raskin told CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union. He later pointed out, “I don't think anybody would seriously argue that we should establish a precedent where every president on the way out the door has two weeks or three weeks or four weeks to try to incite an armed insurrection against the union or organize a coup against the union, and if it succeeds, he becomes a dictator, and if it fails, he's not subject to impeachment or conviction because we just want to let bygones be bygones.”
For now, Democrats and Republicans will have to come up with a timeline to prepare for and start the trial, with Republicans pushing for a delay that Democrats are unlikely to agree to. Convicting Trump of inciting an insurrection will still be an uphill battle for the Senate, which will need a supermajority in favor of conviction, because the Senate is evenly split between both parties. But Pelosi maintains, “We are ready.”