He gave a poisonous speech to thousands of listeners at the door of the White House, turned around and watched his supporters storming the Capitol in front of television. That was, according to the charges, “inciting an insurrection.”
Today, in the US Senate, the second trial against Donald J. Trump begins. This is unique in American history: never before has a president been initiated a two-time deposition procedure. A year ago, Trump was acquitted in his first trial.
On January 13, exactly one week after the storming, the House of Representatives once again decided on such an impeachment. The 100 members of the Senate will have to decide in the next few weeks whether Trump will be convicted. A two-thirds majority must find the ex-president guilty to convict him.
An impeachment procedure in the US takes several steps. Swipe below to see how it works:
Few deny that the storm on January 6 is a crime, causing five deaths. For the independent spectator, a link between Trump‘s actions and the final storming is obvious. But giving hard evidence that Trump has been guilty of sedition will be difficult.
And if it does, it remains a political choice or 67 out of a hundred Senators will find that evidence sufficient to convict Trump. In addition to fifty Democrats, seventeen Republicans in the Senate will have to drop the former president. It’s almost certain this isn‘t going to happen.
It was October 13, 2020, exactly three weeks before election day in America. The campaign was full of steam and Trump’s had one central theme: “These elections will be the biggest fraud in America‘s history”. For months, the president has been keeping this story in front of his followers. Without providing any evidence.
Also that afternoon in October in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I stood among the red Make America Great Again hats and asked the people around me: what do you do if Trump loses and after the election insists he won? “Then we fight, we don’t just step aside,” I heard.
It‘s exactly what Trump did after election day on November 3rd. He lost, maintained his claim of fraud, and tensions in the country increased every day.
The news service of the right-wing Fox News reported that Joe Biden had won the election, but in the better watched evenings the network kept pumping around that Trump had been robbed. Influential Republicans did not contradict this. They stressed that Trump had a right to challenge the outcome ‘legal‘. But knew that in reality he was engaged in a propaganda campaign against the democratic order.
“To the Capitol”
And then came January 6, the day the members of Congress met to make the election win for Biden final. Again I stood among the Trump supporters and heard how the president assured them that “we will fight”.
“ We’re going to the Capitol,” said Trump, “and I‘m going with you.” A speech that summarizes all the lies about the election results. “We will never admit,” said the president. It was palpable how the mass became charged with a voltage that had to be removed.
Trump didn’t walk to the Capitol. He was sitting in the White House in front of his television when the crowd started moving, with men and women in front of them pulling out their helmets, shrapnel vests and bats. The rest is history; they broke through the deposits and stormed into the building.
Congress members had to flee the conference room, a policeman and four stormors were killed in violent chaos.
For example, Trump laid the foundation for the uprising of 6 January with his incessant attacks on the reliability of the elections. That will be at the heart of the argument that the Democrats will stand out in the Senate as of today. It will undoubtedly be an emotional story based on video material and witness statements that have appeared in the media.
There is also the weakness for the Democrats. They did not take the time to conduct their own investigations, after the House of Representatives had not heard any witnesses. The Democrats called Trump himself last week as a witness, but he refuses to come.
Both parties have little interest in an investigation that lasts for weeks. The Democrats are keen to carry out this process, but they also want to move on quickly with the agenda of their new President Biden; the Senate must work on new legislation. For Republicans, a day extra is in the picture every day with an event that mainly causes damage to the party.
Freedom of expression
After the Democrats have spoken, Trump‘s lawyers get the floor. They willdo not try again to prove that electoral fraud has been committed, but throw it on freedom of expression. The defence will say again and again that a president is free to express his doubts about the outcome of the elections.
And they will emphasize that a deposition procedure is unconstitutional and meaningless, because Trump is no longer president. Democrats and a handful of Republicans feel that this is nonsense; an impeachment is also about finding truth, and that can also be important afterwards. And most importantly, if he is convicted, the Senate may decide that Trump will no longer be allowed to hold political functions in the future.
Although they know that they are almost certainly going to lose, the Democrats also see this process as a signal. They want to make it clear that someone does not just get away with a violent attack on the country’s most important democratic institution. This persecution is a first step for them, setting the tone for criminal cases which will undoubtedly continue to follow.