As a day of violence and mayhem at the Capitol slid into evening last month, with bloodshed, glass shattered and democracy besieged, President Donald J. Trump posted a message on Twitter that seemed to celebrate the moment. “Remember this day forever!” he urged.
The House Democrats prosecuting him at his Senate impeachment trial barely a month later hope to make sure everyone does.
With conviction in a polarized Senate seemingly out of reach, the House managers, as the prosecutors are known, are aiming their arguments at two other audiences beyond the chamber: the American people whose decision to deny Mr. Trump a second term was put at risk and the historians who will one day render their own judgments about the former president and his time in power.
Through the expansive use of unsettling video footage showing both Mr. Trump’s words and the brutal rampage that followed, the managers are using their moment in the national spotlight to make the searing images of havoc the inexpungible legacy of the Trump presidency. Rather than let the outrage subside, the managers are seeking to ensure that Mr. Trump is held accountable even if he is acquitted in the Senate
“The Democrats and House managers are playing to a different jury in this case than in any previous impeachment trial of an American president,” said Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne University and the author of books on impeachment, presidents and the Constitution. “Regardless of the outcome of the trial, the first paragraph of historical accounts of the Trump presidency is likely” to say that he incited a mob attack on Congress after refusing to accept the results of an election.
If Mr. Trump is not convicted, the managers want to ensure that he remains so politically radioactive that he cannot be the same force he once was — if not the pariah they think he ought to be, then at least a figure that many mainstream Republicans and their corporate donors keep at arm’s length. In effect, if the Senate will not vote to formally disqualify him from future office, they want the public to do so.
The Trump Impeachment ›
What You Need to Know
- A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
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