Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 1

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:30 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021
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11:13 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Impeachment trial will have an impact regardless of the outcome, GOP congressman says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Regardless of whether or not President Trump gets convicted, the impeachment trial will have an impact and set a precedent, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Tuesday.

“History has a way of judging things kind of perfectly. I don't think people are going to look back in history and say impeaching him was the wrong thing. Everything is a precedent,” Kinzinger told CNN's Jim Sciutto. “I fear what happens is there will be another president some day that sees that as a model and decides he or she is going to emulate that, and that's frightening.”

“Only Donald Trump can be proud of being impeached twice and acquitted," he continued. "Every other president, every other person in the presidency would be ashamed of that. So he'll, you know, stoke the base up. But I don't think it's a lasting proposition … You look at Sarah Palin who was very important for a couple of years, and we don't talk about her anymore. I think he's going to go that way. If he doesn't, the Republican Party is in real trouble.”

Kinzinger also said that many Republican lawmakers have been quieter because of the backlash that Rep. Liz Cheney received for publicly criticizing Trump.

“I don't blame anybody for their vote. I just know this. At the end of my life, I have to look in the mirror and say what did I do with my time in Congress, which is a real huge gift. And I want to know that I did everything to defend this Constitution, that I feel totally at peace with that,” he added.

11:09 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump has already been impeached once. Here's how this trial is different.

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Here's where we are: A president who survived impeachment for trying to stack the deck against his most-feared election opponent is now facing impeachment again for inciting his supporters to attack Capitol Hill to challenge that same opponent's victory.

This second impeachment trial is arguably more important, because it's about Trump's attempt to stop American democracy from functioning. But the first one set the precedent of Trump being held to account for trying to pull the levers of his authority to preserve his own power.

Here's a rundown of what happened leading up to the first impeachment in late 2019 and the last Senate trial in early 2020.

Trump's first impeachment was a complicated affair

  • A whistleblower complained. It took time to learn that Trump was trying to exert pressure on a foreign leader – the new president of Ukraine – to dig up dirt on now-President Joe Biden, the potential 2020 Democratic rival Trump was most worried about having to face. Here's a timeline of what happened behind the scenes.
  • Denials clouded the situation. After trying to keep the whistleblower complaint from Congress, the White House argued Trump did nothing wrong.
  • Facts trickled out. The whistleblower complaint and a transcript of Trump's call with Ukraine's new President showed the President very much exerted pressure and tried to get the foreign country to launch a baseless investigation of Biden and his son Hunter. Aid to Ukraine was slowed. Russia licked its chops. This all occurred long before Biden's nascent presidential campaign had even gained traction.
  • There was a very real debate. Democrats struggled over whether to move forward with an effort that was never going to remove Trump from office after a trial in the Senate, where Republicans held a majority.
  • An impeachment investigation ensued. There were weeks of testimony, in private and then in public, by witnesses including a US ambassador, sitting diplomats and top White House national security officials who were concerned at Trump's behavior. But Trump and most of his administration refused to take part and blocked testimony and cooperation by some key players.
  • House Democrats voted to impeach. Trump became only the third US president ever to be impeached, in a party-line vote on Dec. 18, 2019.
  • Republicans circled the wagons. In the Senate, Trump's allies either argued Trump was entitled to his foreign policy or that his behavior was not impeachable. Only Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee – the last one before Trump – voted to convict him.

Democrats warned he would take the acquittal as license to do it again.

Everything is simpler this time

  • There's been no investigation into what Trump did. He did everything he is accused of on Twitter and out loud, repeatedly rejecting the 2020 presidential election result and encouraging supporters to come to Washington and "stop the steal." They came and, at a rally near the White House on Jan. 6 shortly before Congress began the process of formally recognizing the results, he told them to march to the US Capitol. They did and the mob managed to breach the building and interrupt the counting of electoral votes in a fit of insurrection that left five people dead.
  • There have been no hearings with witness testimony. The proof of Trump's behavior is in his own words and the actions of his supporters.
  • This second trial will also take place at the scene of the crime, and senators will sit in judgment in the room that last month was ransacked by Trump's supporters.
  • A much quicker process. Getting from Trump's Ukraine misdeeds – embodied in a July 25, 2019 phone call between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – to impeachment proceedings in the House took months in 2019. Trump was impeached by the House in mid-December and acquitted on Feb. 5, 2020.
  • This time, his supporters interrupted Congress counting electoral votes Jan. 6, 2021. Trump was impeached one week later and his trial could be wrapped up in a little more than a week this time.
  • A bipartisan impeachment. Several Democrats opposed Trump's first impeachment in the House. The opposite has happened this time, with five Republicans, including third-ranking GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, voting in favor of his second.
  • A very different trial. Chief Justice John Roberts declined to preside over this second trial since Trump is no longer a sitting president. Instead, the long-serving Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont will preside. But he'll follow Roberts' script.
  • Hurried for a different reason. The first trial was hurried along by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican. Now, McConnell has expressed disgust with Trump's actions. It's not clear if he'll ultimately vote to convict, but it's his successor as majority leader, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, who is hurrying the trial along so lawmakers can turn their focus to Biden's legislative priorities, like a Covid relief package. Trump's first acquittal came just weeks before the pandemic took hold and dramatically reshaped life in the US.
  • A similar result? It'll take 17 Republicans voting with Democrats to convict Trump. The main argument among those voting to acquit could be "why bother with this?" now that Trump's out of office.

The answer is that this process is the only way under the Constitution to block the man who rejected the results of this election from running in the next one.

10:53 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

What to expect on the first day of Trump's second impeachment trial

The second impeachment trial of former President Trump will kick off later today with a four-hour debate on the constitutionality of the proceeding followed by a vote at a simple majority threshold to affirm the proceedings' constitutionality.

CNN's Lauren Fox is breaking down what to watch for today.

Watch:

10:58 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Schumer says accusations against Trump are the "most serious charges" ever against a president

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Lauren Fox

As the second Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump begins in several hours, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate has a “solemn responsibility” to try and hold Trump “accountable for the most serious charges, ever, ever levied against a president.”

Schumer said he believes the House impeachment managers will present a “very strong case” with “powerful” evidence, some of it “new.” He also urged his Republican colleagues in particular to pay careful and real attention to the evidence.

The New York Democrat reiterated he believes the country cannot move on without “accountability.”

He made the remarks at a press conference alongside Senate Committee chairs on how their work will continue during the impeachment trial this week.

Watch Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's message:

10:48 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

The Senate will have trial on Sunday unless it's over by then, according to new resolution

From CNN's Manu Raju 

According to the new organizing resolution obtained by CNN, the Senate trial will be in session Sunday unless the proceedings are over by then.

The resolution says:

"Unless the Senate shall have already voted on the article of impeachment, the Senate shall convene as a Court of Impeachment at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 14, 2021."

The trial was initially scheduled for Saturday but subsequently changed after Trump's lawyer, David Schoen, submitted a request not to hold the impeachment trial on the Jewish Sabbath. Late last night, Schoen withdrew his request.

10:58 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Schumer to GOP senators: "Pay very real attention to the evidence"

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of the start of former President Trump's second impeachment trial, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged senators, who will serve as the jury, to pay close attention to the case prosecutors will make.

"I urge all of my colleagues to pay careful attention to the evidence. I particularly urge my Republican colleagues — despite the pressure on them — to pay very real attention to the evidence here because it is very, very serious," he said.

He added: "Every senator, Democrat and Republican, has to approach this trial with the gravity it deserves."

Schumer said he expects House impeachment managers to "present a very strong case" with "powerful" evidence.

10:22 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump's lawyer withdraws request to not hold impeachment trial on Jewish Sabbath

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Lauren Fox, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju

David Schoen speaks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2016
David Schoen speaks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2016 Joe Cavaretta//South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP

Former President Trump's lawyer David Schoen is withdrawing his request to not hold the impeachment trial on the Jewish Sabbath. Schoen's initial request had already been granted and had altered the likely schedule for the proceedings.

In a letter written to Sens. Pat Leahy, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, Schoen wrote, "Based on adjustments that have been made on the President's defense team, I am writing today to withdraw my request so that the proceedings can go forward as originally contemplated before I made my request. I will not participate during the Sabbath; but the role I would have played will be fully covered to the satisfaction of the defense team."

He also wrote, "I am advised that your response to my letter was to graciously accommodate my Sabbath observance and to set a schedule for the upcoming impeachment trial that meant suspending the trial for the Jewish Sabbath. This meant causing you to lose Friday evening and all day Saturday that you previously intended to have for the trial. I very much appreciated your decision; but I remained concerned about the delay in the proceedings."

This will likely lead to a change in the trial schedule laid out in the resolution that was slated to be passed Tuesday. Text for the resolution, which set the parameters for the trial's length and schedule, included language to pause the trial on Friday evening and resume on Sunday afternoon.

Schumer's office had said over the weekend the Senate would accommodate the request from Schoen.

It was unclear as of Monday evening what Schoen's withdrawal would do to the schedule of the impeachment trial, which is slated to begin this afternoon.

10:12 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

These are the House Democrats who will act as prosecutors in Trump's impeachment trial

From CNN's Clare Foran, Janie Boschma and Curt Merrill

A select group of House Democrats known as impeachment managers will act as prosecutors when former President Trump’s second impeachment trial gets into full swing Tuesday afternoon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named nine Democrats to serve as impeachment managers, a role that calls on them to make the case against Trump during the trial. The House has charged him with inciting an insurrection at the Capitol that left five people dead.

The group of Democrats includes a number of top Pelosi allies. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, an expert in constitutional law, is serving as the lead manager.

The nine House impeachment managers are:

  • Jamie Raskin
  • Joaquin Castro
  • David Cicilline
  • Madeleine Dean
  • Diana DeGette
  • Ted Lieu
  • Joe Neguse
  • Stacey Plaskett
  • Eric Swalwell

There are no restrictions on the number of impeachment managers the speaker can name to serve in the role. During the first impeachment trial against Trump, seven House Democrats served as managers.

The House impeachment managers will play a key role in how it unfolds as they each take a turn in the national spotlight. They will have a chance to argue their case before the full Senate with the senators acting like jurors, and after that, the former President’s legal team will have an opportunity to present a defense.

Read more about each of them below:

10:14 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

The US Capitol is under heightened security ahead of Trump's impeachment

From CNN's Zachary Cohen, Shimon Prokupecz and Whitney Wild

Member of the National Guard patrol the exterior of the Capitol complex on February 9.
Member of the National Guard patrol the exterior of the Capitol complex on February 9. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The unprecedented second impeachment trial of former President Trump will take place under extraordinary security inside the US Capitol – a physical reminder that federal officials still believe threats to lawmakers and federal buildings are possible more than a month after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Members of the National Guard still patrol the exterior of the Capitol complex – in some cases along 8-foot, non-scalable fences topped by razor wire.

Within the halls of the building, all nine House Democratic impeachment managers are flanked by a security detail as they walk to votes and take meetings around the Capitol. The managers were also assigned a security detail during last year's impeachment trial.

In addition, enhanced security measures around the US Capitol will remain in place due to the ongoing potential for violence by domestic extremists, in part due to the heightened political tension surrounding the trial itself, sources familiar with the plans told CNN. Access to the Senate will also be tightly regulated, as it was during Trump's first impeachment trial.

Federal law enforcement officials say they are not currently tracking any "specific and credible" threats to the Capitol surrounding the Senate impeachment trial, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but relevant agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, remain on high alert. They're using all the tools at their disposal to avoid the security and intelligence failures that occurred leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The FBI continues to conduct surveillance on a number of people in the US, in cases where there is enough probable cause to do so – monitoring for any signs that they are planning something specific around the impeachment trial and in the weeks that follow, according to a law enforcement official.

Law enforcement officials have also reached out to some of the suspects in an effort to discourage them from facilitating unrest or violence, the official said.

As part of that effort, officials are closely tracking threats against individual members of Congress, which have continued to mount in recent weeks. Ensuring the safety of lawmakers in Washington and as they travel back to their home states has become a particular area of focus, sources have told CNN.

See heightened Capitol security ahead of trial: