Donald Trump

The House impeached Trump again — here’s what that means.


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Democrats are pushing for a rapid impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, after some were reconsidering whether to pursue the trial following an early demonstration of GOP loyalty to the former president. Moments after senators were sworn in to serve as jurors on Monday, 45 Republicans, led by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, moved to declare the trial of a former president “unconstitutional.”

While the motion failed and the trial will proceed, just five Republicans voted against the motion — but 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor to convict Trump, leading Paul to call the trial “dead on arrival.”

Democratic senators could instead be wanting to push on with Senate business to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package with $1,400 checks for Americans, CNN reported Thursday.

Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told CNN the trial should be “relatively expeditious, a matter of days, not weeks.” Trump’s first impeachment trial, which ended with the former president being acquitted, took almost three weeks in the Senate. Others reportedly pointed out that the single article of impeachment and the events leading to the insurrection will be simpler to get through than the previous trial, too.

While it may be a reach to get 17 Republican votes to convict Trump — especially after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who previously said he believed Trump committed “impeachable offenses,” voted with Paul — Democrats are also starting to consider a bipartisan censure, which is a formal, nonbinding statement of disapproval, of Trump rather than a trial, The New York Times reported Thursday.

However, Republican Sen. John Thune, who also voted with the GOP block, said he doesn’t think the vote against the impeachment “binds anybody once the trial starts.” McConnell still hasn’t explained his vote, but told reporters Wednesday that he plans to keep an open mind during the trial. 

“The trial hasn’t started yet,” McConnell said. “I intend to participate in that and listen to the evidence.”

At the heart of the motion to rule the impeachment trial unconstitutional is Trump’s current status as a private citizen, not a sitting president. The timing of the Senate trial — taking place after Trump has left office — is a historic first. He is also the first president to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 13, while he was still in office. 

There’s nothing “unconstitutional” about impeaching a former official, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, as reported by CNN and other outlets. “It has been completely debunked by constitutional scholars from all across the political spectrum.”

Other dramatic pretrial events have seen the presiding officer for the trial, the new Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Patrick Leahy, 80, briefly hospitalized for several hours on Tuesday after unspecified “tests.” While Leahy is set to carry out his duties, the hospitalization, along with Paul’s unexpected motion (which lost by a 55-45 vote), underscore the unusual nature of Trump’s impeachment trial — both in terms of the timing and against the broader backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump is expected to stand trial beginning Feb. 9, where he faces a single impeachment article for incitement of insurrection, regarding his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol

The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming President Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Biden was confirmed after the riot and was later inaugurated, on Jan. 20. In a history-making moment, 10 House Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of impeachment. 

We’ll explain what we know about how the impeachment trial could progress, what it takes to convict or acquit, what’s at stake and where the situation stands now. This story has been updated with new information.

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Schedule of Trump’s impeachment trial

The trial is scheduled to unfold as follows:

  • Jan. 25: Article of impeachment presented to Senate
  • Jan. 26: Senators sworn in, summons for Trump issued
  • Feb. 2: Trump’s answer to article of impeachment due
  • Feb. 8: Trump’s pretrial brief due
  • Feb. 9: House’s pretrial rebuttal brief due; trial begins.

What would happen if Trump is convicted or acquitted?

If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote to bar him from running again (Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would prevent a possible Trump presidential run in 2024. This vote would only require a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if required.

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.

What will happen during Trump’s impeachment trial?

The US Constitution lays out clear guidelines for impeaching a sitting president and other officers for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” However, Trump’s trial is an unusual case. With his second impeachment, Trump, who as of Jan. 20 is a private citizen, is the first president to be impeached twice and the first to be tried after leaving office.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice would normally preside over the impeachment trial of a president. But because it’s not a trial of a sitting president, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will not preside over this impeachment trial — instead, it will be the new Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Patrick Leahy who, as a senator, is also still expected to be able to vote in the trial, too.

The House will prosecute the case, and the Senate will sit as jury and ultimately vote to convict or acquit. 

To convict Trump, 67 senators — or two-third of the Senate — must vote in favor. Following Biden’s inauguration, the Senate is now made up of 48 Democrats, two independents who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans, for an even 50-50 split.

Why was Trump impeached before?

Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House. However, 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.

CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt contributed to this report.