INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial will begin in the Senate. The trial is historic and political experts say it will impact all Americans.
“There is a bit of an opportunity cost here for everyday Americans,”
Steven Webster is an assistant professor of Political Science at Indiana University and said the impeachment trial is important for the American democratic process, but that the time spent focused on the trial does comes with a cost.
“Every second, every minute that the Senate spends on the impeachment trial is a second or a minute that they are not spending on passing legislation,” said Webster.
That includes time away from a potential COVID-19 relief bill or approving President Joe Biden’s cabinet. However, even with a new administration in power, Webster said people should pay attention to the impeachment trial.
“I think people should pay attention if for no other reason than the fact that this is historic,” said Webster. “This is historic because Donald Trump is being impeached for the 2nd time. It’s historic because the last time the U.S. Capitol was sieged was during the War of 1812. So, it has been over two centuries. So, you know, I think that is reason alone for Americans to pay attention to this.”
Impeachment managers argue that while in office, President Trump abused his power. The House managers said they will focus on video from the insurrection on January, 6th and what the former president said in the rally leading up to it. The Democrats are pushing that a leader’s actions have consequences.
“The argument for Democrats is one of accountability. I think the argument that the impeachment managers in the House are making is that if inciting an insurrection on the United States Capitol is not an impeachable offense, one that is worthy of conviction, then simply nothing is,” said Webster.
Democrats need 17 Republicans to vote for a conviction. That’s not likely to happen.
Trump’s legal team is expected to argue that the former president is protected by the First Amendment, freedom of speech. In a news brief, Trump’s legal team argued that the House’s effort is constitutionally deficient and cannot result in a conviction. The team pushed that impeachment is an act of political theater.
“This is the argument certainly the Republicans are taking. Which is that because Donald Trump is no longer president, it doesn’t make sense for the Senate to go ahead with its impeachment trial,” said Webster.
The Senate has the power to make its own rules. Democrat leaders point to the fact that Trump was president at the time that he was impeached in the house. While it’s not clear how long the trial will last, political experts agree that the process is important.
“Most people in political science are really concerned with norms and with democratic values. And I would think most experts in the field would argue that proceeding with the trial is important even if it doesn’t lead to a conviction. Simply because the senate needs to demonstrate that this sort of behavior from our chief executive, regardless of the political party, is simply not acceptable,” said Webster.
The impeachment trial starts at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and is expected to continue through the weekend. Webster said the goal will be to have the trial in the mornings and other legislative work occur in the evenings.