Disgraced former US President Donald Trump could make history once again as his second impeachment trial begins today.
The Republican billionaire entered the record books last month after becoming the first President to be impeached for a second time.
He was charged on January 13 with ‘incitement of insurrection’ based on a speech he gave to a crowd of followers shortly before the US Capitol was stormed in a deadly insurrection bid.
Five people died including a police officer in panicked scenes as Congress was completing the proceedings to officially name Joe Biden the 46th US President.
Rioters smashed their way in, causing terrified members of Congress to hide or flee for safety.
After voting to impeach the ex-President House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said: “The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country.
“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
The Senate will now hold a trial from today to determine whether to convict the businessman-turned-politician or not.
Why is this happening?
The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump by a majority of 232 to 197 last month.
The vote went largely along party lines but ten Republican Congressmen did break the ranks, voting to condemn the leader of their own party.
It made Trump the first President ever to be impeached twice. Trump was first impeached in February last year on two charges – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The articles of this impeachment presented to the House have just a single charge: “incitement of insurrection.”
W ho lost their lives in the riot?
The deadly riots that shamed America and left five people dead last month are at the heart of the impeachment trial.
Among those who died was US Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit, who was shot dead by police.
The 35-year-old was part of a crowd that breached the building, allegedly ignoring officers’ calls to move back.
Fellow Trump fanatics Kevin Greeson, Benjamin Phillips and Roseanne Boyland all died due to “medical reasons” while involved in the riots.
A fifth man, police officer Brian D. Sicknick died after he collapsed having suffered injuries in clashes with protesters.
When is the trial taking place?
The trial will begin today at 1pm ET which is 6pm here in the UK.
It is being televised and will be available on US media sites as well as on You Tube.
What is the impeachment process?
In an impeachment trial senators consider evidence, hear witnesses, and either vote to acquit or convict the impeached official.
In the case of presidential impeachment trials, the chief justice of the United States presides.
The US Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official upon conviction is removal from office.
As Trump is no longer in office it isn’t clear what the penalty might be but the Senate has previously disqualified officials from holding public offices in the future.
For this case the lead prosecutor, Democratic Jamie Raskin, has already offered a preview saying: “The story of the president’s actions is both riveting and horrifying.
“We think that every American should be aware of what happened – that the reason he was impeached by the House and the reason he should be convicted and disqualified from holding future federal office is to make sure that such an attack on our democracy and Constitution never happens again.”
Rather than relying on witness testimony to make their case, the prosecutor and his eight colleagues are expected to focus on a video likened to a “blockbuster action film”.
It contains footage spliced together clips from the insurrection with the comments Trump made as the violence unfolded.
What’s the time table?
The trial starts today which is reportedly expected to begin with hours of debate over whether or not the Senate has the authority to put an ex-President on trial in an impeachment process.
A majority vote on the issue is expected to be held and assuming at least half the room agrees the trial is constitutional than legal arguments will be heard on behalf of both sides.
Both sides will have up to two days and there will be a short pause from 5pm on Friday until Sunday afternoon to accommodate the Jewish sabbath.
After that there will be questions from Senators, followed by a debate about witnesses.
It is not yet known exactly when a final vote will be held on either convicting or acquitting Donald Trump.
Will Trump make an appearance?
According to NBC News House Democrats had asked Trump to testify under oath but an adviser said the former president won’t testify.
He could theoretically be given a subpoena – meaning he would be ordered to come to court – but this is seen to be an unlikely move.
His defence, though, has been laid down in a pretrial brief, whereby it is denied Trump had encouraged violence and the constitutionality of the proceedings was challenged.
Leading Republican Lindsey Graham has also claimed the trial is unconstitutional due to its timing and predicted Trump will “get his share of blame in history” for the riot.
What could happen?
The 100-member body of the US Senate could potentially bar Trump from ever again serving in public office. There is also no appeal allowed in such findings.
However, the trial is expected to result in Trump’s acquittal because of a lack of a two-thirds majority that is required for a conviction.
This represents 17 Republicans who would need to join the Senate’s 50 Democrats in the vote.
Commentators have said that there appears to be little chance of that occurring.
What will it mean?
If Trump is convicted, he could be barred from running for president ever again as part of his punishment.
Given the votes needed though, that seems unlikely.
If he is acquitted Joe Biden remains the democratically elected new US President but Trump could gain new ammunition for a potential second run at the top job in 2024.