By Sonia Rubeck
Boston University News Service
The Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump began Tuesday, as Democrats seek to convict him for his alleged role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Although Trump has already left office, a conviction could disqualify him from holding future offices and limit his access to White House intelligence reports.
If convicted, Trump will likely retain the benefits endowed by the Former Presidents Act, including a $200,000 pension. The act only terminates benefits for presidents removed from office.
Trump’s term ended before his trial.
President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain told CNN that he was considering limiting Trump’s access to security briefings, which former presidents are typically privy to.
The House of Representatives passed one article of impeachment against Trump a week before his term expired. The article charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for spreading messages that “encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol.”
In this unprecedented second impeachment, 10 Republicans joined Democratic representatives in charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors.
The U.S. Constitution allows Congress to remove a president for committing “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Trump was first impeached in 2019 for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, after he was accused of encouraging Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to find compromising information about then-presidential candidate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. He was acquitted by the Senate in February 2020.
The process begins in the House with impeachment, the congressional equivalent of an indictment, which signals that there is sufficient evidence for a trial. Typically, an investigation into alleged wrongdoing is launched by the House Judiciary Committee, which recommends charges to the House floor.Impeachment Infographic by Sonia Rubeck
Trump’s second impeachment vote went straight to the House floor with no committee investigation.
If the House votes to impeach, the articles of impeachment move to the Senate for a trial.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell set the trial’s guidelines on the Senate floor Monday.
A two-thirds supermajority is required for senators to convict the president. A conviction traditionally removes a president from office or, in this case, bars them from holding future office.
The Senate could hold another vote to disqualify Trump from holding any federal office if he’s convicted; he could also be subject to a criminal prosecution.
House impeachment managers need support from 17 Republican senators to convict Trump. However, pundits say that this is unlikely to happen.
Only five of 50 Republican senators indicated that the Senate impeachment trial is constitutional after a forced procedural vote.
Experts indicate that it is unlikely that enough Republicans will vote in favor of conviction.
Trump’s defense attorneys claim that the Senate has no jurisdiction to move forward with the trial because he has already left White House.
House impeachment managers cite the impeachment of former Secretary of War William Belkap, who resigned before articles were formally drawn but was still tried in the Senate.
Using this precedent, Democrats argue that the trial has legitimate standing because Trump was impeached while still in office.
Democrats reiterated their belief in the constitutionality of the trial, saying that the Framers of the Constitution would have supported their efforts.
Material from Associated Press was used in this report.