February 25, 2021

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Impeachment trial live updates: Most important questions being asked right now, and when the impeachment vote will happen – CNET

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The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump moves on to Q&A from senators for both the prosecution and defense.

James Martin/CNET

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump wrapped up even faster than thought, with the defense resting its case after just three hours of arguments Friday. The Senate has now moved onto the Q&A section, with senators given four hours to ask questions of both sides.

The trial saw prosecutors rely on disturbing video footage showing the attack on the Capitol, as well as video and audio clips and social media posts showing Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 and in the days and months leading up to that date. They additionally showed posts by Trump where he lauded violent actions by his supporters in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

On Friday, the defense team used more dispassionate constitutional analysis to argue the trial is a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights, as well as arguing that Trump’s rally speech was taken out of context — and that Democratic leaders have used the same language in the past in calling on their own supporters to “fight.”

How to watchImpeachment trial moves into Senate questions: How to watch and stream now

The trial will continue Saturday, with each side given two hours to present its closing arguments. Senators are expected to vote to convict or acquit Trump on Saturday afternoon.

We’re going to highlight the biggest questions asked by senators below, followed by a recap of the most important arguments from the trial.

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All eyes are on the historic impeachment trial this week.

James Martin/CNET

The most important questions senators have asked so far

When did Trump learn of the attack on the Capitol, and what did he do to stop the rioting and when? 

Defense: Without providing information from their client on what he did to stop the riot and when, Trump’s team argued “there’s been absolutely no investigation into that” by the House impeachment managers.

Prosecutors: “This attack was on live TV on all major networks. He knew the violence was under way. He knew the severity of the threat. He knew Capitol police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and fighting for their lives against thousands of insurgents with weapons,” they argued. “Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attacks for two hours after the attacks began? Why did President Trump do nothing to help the Capitol and law enforcement?”

Is this trial just for show?

Defense: That is what Trump believes.

If Trump is not convicted, what message does that send?

Prosecutors: The world is watching to see what we do, and decisions like this will define what America is.

Recap of the case against Trump 

Here’s the key evidence the House managers presented this week.

Previously unseen riot footage showing the attack on the Capitol, including security footage as well as models showing where rioters were in relation to senators.

Video and audio clips and social media posts showed Trump repeatedly calling on supporters to storm the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6. Video clips of the siege included chants threatening violence against Pence and members of Congress, as well as false claims about the election. Trump deliberately used false claims about election fraud, the House managers said, to “trigger an angry base to ‘fight like hell‘” to overturn a legitimate election.

Video and social media postings from supporters attending Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 prior to the Capitol riot aim to prove causation between Trump’s remarks at the rally and the rioters’ actions.

Footage from Trump rallies from 2016 and 2017, in which Trump urged supporters to attack protesters at the events and praising the assaults, which the House managers said showed a pattern of supporting violence. They also pointed to Trump tweeting praise when supporters tried to run a Biden-Harris campaign bus off the road in Texas in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

Statements made by Trump following the attack demonstrated a lack of remorse and refusal to be held accountable, which sends a message to future presidents there is no consequence to inciting an insurrection, if the Senate doesn’t vote to convict, the House managers argued. At least 16 administration officials resigned in the days following the riot, managers added.

Acquitting Trump could lead to political consequences, they said. They also highlighted the high cost to state and federal governments to prepare for — and recover from — what they called “President Trump’s mob,” and the emotional toll on Congressional members, staff and workers resulting from the riot. 

The First Amendment doesn’t prevent you from facing consequences for your words, Raskin said Thursday, especially when you hold the highest leadership position in the nation. “There’s nothing in the First Amendment … that can excuse your betrayal of your oath of office,” Raskin said. “It’s not a free speech question. [It’s] the greatest betrayal of a presidential oath in the history of America.”

Trump’s defense strategy

Analysis of the Constitution was used on Day 1 to suggest that the impeachment trial is without merit. The trial is unconstitutional and a violation of Trump’s rights, the defense argues, saying, “Mr. Trump’s speech deserves full protection under the First Amendment.”

Social media posts and video clips from Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and other events that the defense attorneys said demonstrate that the House impeachment managers “manipulated” video and remarks used in their presentation to make their case.

Trump’s remarks encouraged “peaceful and patriotic protests,” his lawyers argued on Day 4, rather than a violent overturn of the results of the election, as House trial managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin had claimed in the first three days of the trial. “We know that the president would never have wanted such a riot to occur because his long-standing hatred for violent protesters and his love for law and order is on display, worn on his sleeve, every day that he served in the White House,” lead Trump lawyer Bruce Caster said Friday afternoon.

The violence was premeditated and preplanned, and therefore Trump’s Jan. 6 rally speech did not cause the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, it was argued. Claiming Trump’s speech has been taken out of context and that his use of the word “fight” was metaphorical, Caster said rioters had already broken through barriers into the Capitol before Trump had finished speaking.

What happened does not fit the definition of an insurrection since no government was overthrown, Castor argued.

Impeachment video clips that contrast remarks from Trump with those of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders and commentators that Trump’s defense team says shows the Democrats’ “reckless, dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric in recent years.”

Trump impeachment vote on Saturday

Trump’s impeachment trial was originally going to pause from Friday at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT) until Sunday afternoon, if the trial hadn’t wrapped up by then. But through a series of events, a vote to acquit or convict may come as soon as Saturday or Sunday, if no delays arise, such as a call for witnesses or documents. Here’s more information about the current impeachment trial schedule and where to watch the impeachment trial on Day 4.

What happens if the Senate convicts or acquits Trump

If the Senate votes to convict the former president, it will hold an additional vote to bar him from running again (per the US Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would preclude a possible presidential run in 2024. This vote would require only a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris serving as president of the Senate would cast a tie-breaking vote, if required.

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Brett Pearce/CNET

Trump could also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents by the Post Presidents Act, including a Secret Service security detail, pension and yearly travel allowance.

According to the US Constitution, impeached presidents also can’t be pardoned.

If acquitted, Trump would have access to all the benefits of a former US president, including the option to run for public office.

Read more: Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial: Here’s what could happen

Trump’s first impeachment in 2019

Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House, but the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020.

His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.

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