Trump Refuses to Show Face at Senate Conviction Trial: Claims of Unconstitutionality Threaten the Life of the Case

By Erin Maxwell || News Editor

Image courtesy of AP News.

Early in the day on January 6th, shouts of “fight like hell!” echoed across the National Mall, as domestic terrorists staged an insurrection at the nation’s Capitol building. The world watched live-streamed video footage of American democracy suddenly becoming as fragile as loosely protected glass windows, and one name rose above it all: Donald Trump. 

Making bleak history as the first president to ever be impeached twice, former President Donald Trump faces another trial in front of the newly, yet marginally, Democratic Senate, this time on charges of inciting the Capitol riot. After the impeachment easily passed through the lower house, top GOP senators now claim that the case is “dead on arrival” (POLITICO). Though legal scholars overwhelmingly believe otherwise, Republican senators have asserted that the conviction in the Senate would be unconstitutional, as Trump has since left office. Last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul forced a purely procedural vote, and 45 other GOP members joined him in the decision that the trial was unconstitutional. Although not gaining enough votes to erase the case altogether, this early vote does indicate a potentially fatal blow to the hopes of Trump’s conviction. Democrats, most notably the Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, have openly dismissed this argument, as the Constitution does not prevent the Senate from taking this action, and it would set the precedent that any official under charges could simply quickly resign to “avoid a vote on disqualification.” (AP News) 

Image courtesy of US News.

Simply put, Democrats need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to gain a conviction, which would require them to win over at least 17 Republican senators, a feat that seems wholly unlikely. The motivation for conviction is one to bar Trump from ever holding a public office again, and from enjoying the tax-paid benefits of a former president. With five deaths resulting from the January 9th riots, and two officer suicides following shortly after, tensions around the trial are immensely high, and the proceedings’ preeminence has slowed some of the Biden administration’s early action.

 After weeks of correspondence between impeachment manager, Representative Jamie Raskin, and Trump’s legal representation, another similarity has arisen between Trump’s two impeachments- he won’t be there. Calling it an “unconstitutional proceeding,” Jason Miller, senior advisor to Trump, has made clear that only a subpoena would bring the former President in front of the Senate. Evidence submission and the subpoenaing of witnesses is still underway but on February 9th of this year, Senator Patrick Leahy will preside over a historic trial, one that may be the first and most notable of many, as Trump faces down a laundry list of criminal and civil charges in several states.

The silence from many top Republicans makes outcomes uncertain, but the memory of the January riots lends an unprecedented weight to the situation that will be sure to make the month of February similarly important for democracy.

Sophomore Erin Maxwell is the News Editor for The College Reporter. Her email is: emaxwell@fandm.edu.

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