Tension as Trump’s second impeachment trial begins

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The US Senate has okayed Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, with his defense team decrying it as a “brazen political act” of retribution and Democratic prosecutors arguing that the ex-president willfully incited a violent insurrection.

The House of Representatives impeached him last month over his role in the deadly January 6 siege of the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, and his trial — the first of a former president — will feature the Senate’s 100 members sitting as jurors.

Trump’s legal team Monday denounced the case as unconstitutional, calling it “absurd” to hold the former president responsible for the violence.

But in a preview of their prosecuting arguments, Democrats accused Trump Monday of committing the “most grievous constitutional crime” in the 232-year history of the American presidency by inciting his supporters to storm Congress.

The trial occurs with much of Capitol Hill still locked down under intense security one month after the unrest.

Amid continued fears of extremist attacks, 6,000 National Guard members remain deployed in Washington, adding to the picture of a capital still on edge.

The proceedings kick off at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT). According to a bipartisan deal, there first will be up to four hours of debate and a vote on the constitutionality of trying an ex-president.

Arguments will be heard beginning Wednesday, with 16 hours provided over two days per side.

Senators will then pose questions to the two teams, and a majority vote will be needed if either side wants to call witnesses. Trump has already declined an invitation to testify.

The trial is expected to extend into next week.

Trump is a deeply damaged political figure, in part because of his relentless false claims about voter fraud. But he remains a powerful force in the Republican Party.

Charged with “incitement of insurrection,” he is likely once again to avoid conviction due to loyal support in the Senate, but his lawyers contended in their final pre-trial filing that the Constitution does not give the chamber jurisdiction to try a former president.

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“The Senate must summarily reject this brazen political act” because “this is clearly not what the framers wanted or what the Constitution allows,” his attorneys Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael T. van der Veen wrote.

“Indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our Republic democracy and the rights that we hold dear.”

The defense used blunt language in their 78-page brief, saying it was “simply absurd” to argue that Trump conjured up a mob to commit a violent crime and that those who attacked the Capitol did so on their own.