Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial will most likely begin on Tuesday with a formal debate and vote over the constitutionality of trying a former president at all after he leaves office, according to a person familiar with the rules for what may be an exceedingly swift proceeding.
The debate will allow the House managers, Mr. Trump’s defense team and senators a chance to adjudicate up front a question that has loomed over the proceedings and figured prominently in the former president’s defense. Mr. Trump is the first former president ever to stand trial.
If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the prosecution and defense would then have up to 16 hours each to present their cases starting at noon on Wednesday. The trial is expected to break Friday evening and reconvene on Sunday to honor the Sabbath at the request of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, meaning it could conclude as early as next week, faster than any impeachment trial involving a president in American history.
Senators Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, were finalizing the rules on Monday morning just as Mr. Trump’s lawyers were expected to lay out their first sustained impeachment defense.
The lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David I. Schoen, signaled last week that they would use the pretrial brief due at 10 a.m. Monday to insist above all that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try a former president and senators should immediately dismiss the case. The argument is based on a literal reading of the Constitution, which does not explicitly say the Senate can try a former official.
Legal scholars, including many conservatives, argue that the founders never intended to exempt someone like Mr. Trump from trial — a president who was impeached while in office but left before senators could judge him. And the Senate itself voted in the 19th century to try a former war secretary.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers will also deny that he incited the mob that violently attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, when Congress was meeting to certify President Biden’s election victory, or violated his oath to “protect and defend” the Constitution.
The arguments arrived while Washington prepared for Tuesday’s opening of the second impeachment trial of Mr. Trump in just over a year, a dubious record that promises to leave a mark on both parties. For Democrats now in control of Congress and the White House, the proceeding threatens to complicate Mr. Biden’s attempts to quickly pass a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. Republican leaders worry that days of intense focus on the former president’s mendacious campaign to overturn his election loss could further cleave their party.
The House impeachment managers, who laid out their arguments in an 80-page brief last week, will also file a shorter response at noon rebutting Mr. Trump’s effort to dismiss the charge. They plan to argue that Mr. Trump and his monthslong campaign to sow a false narrative that victory had been “stolen” from him is “singularly responsible” for the attack, the death of a Capitol Police officer and undermining the democratic electoral process itself.
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