The second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins on Tuesday afternoon, a history-making moment for the institution of the presidency and one that could have lasting political repercussions as the Republican Party charts its future.
Mr. Trump already has claimed the unwelcome distinction of being the first president to be impeached twice. His first Senate trial, over his pressure campaign on Ukraine, ended in acquittal a year ago.
The new trial is most likely headed toward the same outcome, especially after all but five Republican senators voted in an unsuccessful attempt last month to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional. Seventeen Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats to convict Mr. Trump of the charge he faces, “incitement of insurrection.”
The proceedings will nevertheless be filled with high-stakes legal and political calculations.
The House impeachment managers have an opportunity to present a vivid portrait of a truth-defying president who stirred up his supporters to wage a deadly assault on the Capitol. Laying out their case in a brief last week, they declared that Mr. Trump was “singularly responsible” for the siege and should be convicted and disqualified from holding public office ever again.
In a brief on Monday offering a defense of the former president, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said he “did not direct anyone to commit lawless actions,” and they argued that the Senate had no power to try a former president.
The trial is expected to be fast. Each side has up to 16 hours to make their case, and a final vote on whether to convict or acquit Mr. Trump could take place early next week. That timeline would make it the fastest impeachment trial for a president in history.
It will unfold at a politically delicate moment for both Republicans and Democrats, though in markedly different ways. Republicans face deep divisions over the party’s path forward in the wake of Mr. Trump’s presidency, as evidenced by the backlash against the 10 House Republicans who voted last month to impeach him. The trial will place a spotlight yet again on Mr. Trump’s conduct following an election defeat he refused to accept.
Democrats are determined to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his actions, but they also have another major consideration: the fate of President Biden’s agenda in the first weeks of his presidency. Mr. Biden is seeking to win passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, a sizable legislative undertaking that congressional Democrats do not wish to delay.
The second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins on Tuesday, about a month after he was charged by the House with incitement of insurrection for his role in egging on a violent mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Here’s what you need to know.
How will the trial unfold?
A bipartisan agreement reached on Monday could pave the way for an especially quick and efficient proceeding that could be over by early next week.
The Senate is poised to vote to approve the rules and formally begin the trial at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Up to four hours will be devoted to debating the constitutionality of impeaching a president who is no longer in office. If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the main part of the trial begins.
Starting Wednesday, the prosecution and the defense will have 16 hours each to present their cases to the senators, who are serving as a jury.
Tradition dictates that senators are then allowed at least one day to ask questions. The trial is expected to conclude with closing arguments and a final vote on whether to convict Mr. Trump.
What are the arguments on both sides?
The prosecution plans to show videos captured by the mob, Mr. Trump’s unvarnished words and criminal pleas from rioters who said they acted at the former president’s behest. House managers are aiming for a conviction and to bar Mr. Trump from holding office again.
On Friday, more than 140 constitutional lawyers took aim at that argument, calling it “legally frivolous.”
The very first issue to be considered in the opening hours of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday will be the question of whether it is constitutional to put an impeached former president on trial at all.
Senate Republicans who voted last month to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional came under pressure on Sunday to re-evaluate their position when a leading conservative constitutional lawyer, Charles J. Cooper — who has been a close ally and adviser to Republican senators like Ted Cruz of Texas — argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that their claims about the constitutionality of the proceeding were unfounded.
The impeachment put pressure on Senate Republicans to either condone or repudiate Mr. Trump’s conduct. Some set aside the question to instead focus on the process itself, arguing that whether or not Mr. Trump’s actions constituted high crimes and misdemeanors, the Senate could not try him because the Constitution did not allow a former president to stand trial for impeachment.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers are expected to make a narrower and more technical argument that the Constitution forbids a former president to be put on trial.
“The Senate of the United States lacks jurisdiction over the 45th president because he holds no public office from which he can be removed, rendering the article of impeachment moot,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David Schoen, wrote in a 14-page response to the House managers last week.
Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to broadly assert that a president can be put on trial for offenses committed in office, no matter when the trial is held. Otherwise, the Democrats say, there would be no way to hold to account a president who commits wrongdoing in the final weeks of a term.
In the opinion piece, Mr. Cooper took on the Republicans’ assertion that because the penalty for an impeachment conviction is removal from office, it was never intended to apply to a former president.
Mr. Cooper argued that the Constitution gives the Senate the power to bar convicted officials from holding office again, writing, “It defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”
Unlike his first senate impeachment trial, former President Donald J. Trump has no Twitter feed to use as a cannon aimed squarely at his political rivals as the proceedings unfold.
Instead, as the trial begins Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump is expected to be busy with meetings at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., while sporadically watching the trial, people close to him said on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump is being represented by two lawyers, David I. Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr., who will carry his message that the trial is unconstitutional because he is out of office, and that his language did not incite the violence by his supporters who mobbed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
A handful of aides will post on Twitter in defense of Mr. Trump. Officials at the Republican National Committee are also expected to be part of a rapid-response effort.
But the focus of the trial, Mr. Trump, is expected to remain out of sight.
Mr. Trump’s aides have constructed an office for him at Mar-a-Lago, separate from his residence, and it was unclear on Tuesday morning where he would watch the televised Senate proceedings.
Mr. Trump has lost his favored weapon to use against Democrats and to keep Republicans from breaking with him: his Twitter feed. But the former president is said to have adjusted to a life without it and a press corps assigned to cover the office he inhabited.
Mr. Trump is said to have told aides he is happy away from Twitter. His adviser, Jason Miller, recently told The Times of London that he was just fine despite Twitter banning him in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Since he flew out of Andrews Air Force Base for the final time on the morning of Jan. 20, Mr. Trump has spent several days golfing or meeting with people at Mar-a-Lago.
On Sunday evening, he was videotaped making an appearance among the club’s guests during the Super Bowl, wearing a suit, as he almost always does at the club.
President Biden’s predecessor stands accused of fomenting an insurrection, but the White House insists that Mr. Biden will hardly be paying attention.
As the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Biden is scheduled to be meeting in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the vice president, and a handful of business executives for a discussion about the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package being debated on Capitol Hill, and Mr. Biden’s push to increase the minimum wage.
“I think it’s clear from his schedule, and from his intention, he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday.
Mr. Biden and his team have gone out of their way for weeks to insist that responding to Mr. Trump’s actions ahead of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol should be left to members of Congress. Ms. Psaki repeatedly waved off questions about what Mr. Biden thought about how the trial should be conducted.
Now that the spectacle is beginning, the White House is maintaining that above-the-fray posture. Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to receive their daily intelligence briefing on Tuesday morning. Ms. Psaki will hold her daily exchange with reporters even as senators begin their impeachment debate.
The afternoon meeting with Ms. Yellen will also include chief executives: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Doug McMillon of Walmart; Sonia Syngal of the Gap; Marvin R. Ellison of Lowes; and Thomas J. Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
A White House news release described the meeting as an opportunity for Mr. Biden to press his case for “the critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy.” But one person said the president also intended to discuss his case for increasing the minimum wage.
Mr. Biden has proposed an increase in the minimum wage to $15 as part of his virus relief package. The chamber asked Mr. Biden in a letter this month to drop the minimum wage increase from his relief proposal. At least one Democratic senator is on record opposing the increase, which could make it difficult to pass in the evenly divided chamber.
Former President Donald J. Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will begin oral arguments on Tuesday but the apparatus that fed him much of his power — the conservative news media — is facing a test of its own. This might ultimately have a much bigger impact on the future of American politics than anything that happens to Mr. Trump as an individual.
In recent weeks, two voting-technology companies have each filed 10-figure lawsuits against Mr. Trump’s lawyers and his allies in the media, claiming they spread falsehoods that did tangible harm. This comes amid an already-raging debate over whether to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online companies from being held liable for the views expressed on their platforms.
“The greatest consequence of the Trump presidency has been the weaponizing of disinformation and parallel dismantling of trust in the media,” said Mark McKinnon, a longtime political strategist and co-host of the Showtime political series “The Circus.”
“Unfortunately, it took the perpetration of the big lie that the election was a fraud, an insurrection at the Capitol, and almost destroying our democracy for someone to finally take action,” Mr. McKinnon said. “But it appears to be working. Nothing like threatening the bottom line to get the desired attention.”
On Thursday, the voting-machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, some of its prominent hosts and two lawyers who represented Mr. Trump, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. The suit accuses them of mounting a campaign of defamation by claiming that Smartmatic had been involved in an effort to throw the election. That came on the heels of a similar $1.3 billion suit that Dominion Voting Systems brought against Mr. Giuliani the week before.
The impact was immediate. Newsmax, an ultraconservative TV station that has expanded its popularity by lining up to the right of Fox News, cut off an interview with the MyPillow founder Mike Lindell last week while he attacked Dominion — something that commentators had done on the station many times before. Then, over the weekend, Fox Business sidelined Lou Dobbs, one of Mr. Trump’s fiercest TV news defenders and a defendant named in the Smartmatic lawsuit.