Like an air of déjà vu. For the second time in a little over a year, Donald Trump will be tried, from Tuesday, by senators. Indicted for “incitement to insurgency” as part of the attack on the Capitol, the former US president risks dismissal and possible ineligibility. But faced with Republicans who do not seem determined to let go, the former tenant of the White House should escape the worst.
The trial could be completed in a week
On Monday, Democrats and Republicans agreed on the rules. The trial will start Tuesday with a four-hour debate followed by a preliminary vote. Then, Democratic prosecutors will have 4 p.m. to present their case. They accuse Donald Trump of having “deliberately incited to violence” his supporters, who stormed the Capitol on January 6. Lawyers for the former US president will have the same time and maintain that his speech fell within the scope of freedom of expression, and that he simply called on the crowd to demonstrate peacefully.
Unless witnesses are called, the trial could be completed in a week, after a break on Saturday in respect of Shabbat, at the request of one of Donald Trump’s lawyers. Prosecutors asked to hear the former president under oath, but the latter refused. Senators can in theory subpoena witnesses, but that would lead to a lengthy legal battle that Joe Biden would rather avoid in the face of the pandemic.
In a forum published by Politico, however, former prosecutor Renato Mariotti believes that “witnesses would be the only factor that could upset a trial that seems to have been played out in advance.” Several Capitol rioters, among others, testified in court that they responded to Donald Trump’s call.
An unlikely impeachment
Nuclear option, impeachment requires a two-thirds majority of 67 senators out of 100. The 50 Democrats would therefore need 17 Republicans. And at the end of January, only five Conservatives voted in favor of the lawsuit. Even if their leader Mitch McConnell and a few might change their mind, we should be far from the mark.
Donald Trump therefore left to escape impeachment and a second vote that could have made him ineligible. He could therefore, in theory, run again in 2024. But after the attack on Capitol Hill, his popularity fell by 18 points among Republicans. According to a poll for the ABC channel, 56% of Americans are now in favor of his impeachment. Devoid of suspense, the trial could further tarnish its image.