In a criminal trial, each member of the jury answers a complex but ultimately basic question: do I believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect is guilty. But Donald Trump has not been indicted, and he does not face American justice but 100 senators at the same time judge, jury and parties. Indicted in the House for “inciting insurgency” in the attack on the Capitol, the former US president remains very popular among the Republican electorate. Faced with the risk of facing a difficult re-election, the conservative senators should therefore logically vote to acquit him, with a verdict expected on Saturday or Sunday.
Democrats final pitch
On Thursday, Democratic prosecutors finished their presentation. After shocking videos of the assault on Capitol Hill unveiled the day before, they tried to convince senators that Donald Trump was “the chief instigator” of a “dangerous insurgency”, in particular by examining his conduct before, during and after January 6th. We have seen rioters charged with ensuring that they had been “invited” by the president or to have “responded to his call”. “If he comes back to power and starts over, we can only blame ourselves.” We have to condemn and disqualify him (make him ineligible) ”insisted the Democratic Chief Prosecutor, Jamie Raskin.
Verdict probably Saturday
On paper, the lawyers of the former tenant of the White House have the same duration, 16 hours over two days, for their pleadings. But one of the counsels, David Schoen, confirmed on Thursday that the case is expected to be completed on Friday in “three or four hours.”
For her part, Democratic prosecutor Madeline Dean said calling witnesses was unnecessary because “Americans and senators have all witnessed” the January 6 attack. Suddenly, elected officials should be able to move on to a short question-and-answer session on Saturday morning and then, after a final plea, vote in the evening or Sunday at the latest.
The lines don’t seem to have moved
For Democrats, the equation remains the same: they need the reinforcement of 17 Republicans to reach a two-thirds majority (67 senators out of 100) to remove Donald Trump and open the door to a second vote to make him ineligible.
The problem for prosecutors is that only six Republicans voted Tuesday to confirm that the trial was indeed constitutional. Even if the six voted to condemn Donald Trump, which is far from guaranteed, 11 additional elected officials would have to be found. And several moderates like Roy Blunt or Rob Portman have suggested that even if they found the prosecutors’ presentation “effective”, they had not changed their minds on the merits. Ditto for Marco Rubio.
Thursday, during a break, we saw a discussion between several rebels, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, and four Republicans who voted against the holding of the trial, but who had harsh words against Donald Trump: their boss in the Senate Mitch McConnell, the influential John Thune as well as Jerry Moran and Richard Burr, two senators who have sometimes distanced themselves from the former US president. According to Bloomberg, McConnell privately assured relatives on Wednesday that he had not yet made his decision. Even with some very uncertain reinforcements, Donald Trump’s safety margin seems insurmountable.