His partner David I. Schoen was sharper, asserting that Democrats were driven by an “insatiable lust” to destroy Mr. Trump. Mr. Schoen warned that they would instead damage the country by setting a new standard to pursue former officials, despite the fact that the House voted with bipartisan support to impeach Mr. Trump before he left office.
- 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. On the eve of the trial’s start, only 28 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.
“Under their unsupportable constitutional theory, and tortured reading of the text, every civil officer who has served is at risk of impeachment if any given group elected to the House decides that what was thought to be important service to the country when they served now deserves to be canceled,” Mr. Schoen said.
The defense’s case drew perplexed reactions from Republicans, evidently including Mr. Trump, who — barred from Twitter and out of sight in Florida — lacks the public megaphone he frequently used to weigh in on his first trial. The performance prompted at least one Republican, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, to side with Democrats on the vote to allow the trial to proceed.
“Anyone who listened to President Trump’s legal team saw they were unfocused, they attempted to avoid the issue and they talked about everything but the issue at hand,” said Mr. Cassidy, who had voted last month in favor of a constitutional objection to the trial and was the only Republican to switch his position on the matter on Tuesday. He quickly drew rebukes from the Louisiana Republican Party.
The debate reflected the historic nature of the undertaking. Though in the 19th century the Senate agreed to try a war secretary after he left office, it has never before sat in judgment of a former president. Mr. Trump is also the first president ever to be impeached and stand trial twice, and certainly the only one to require a court of impeachment to don masks and meet in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
With senators in both parties eager to conclude an undertaking whose outcome was clear, they agreed to rules that would allow for an extraordinarily rapid impeachment trial, with a verdict expected as soon as this weekend. It could conclude in as little as half the time of Mr. Trump’s first trial, when senators acquitted him of charges related to a pressure campaign on Ukraine.
The speed reflected Democrats’ fears that pausing to judge Mr. Trump would spoil the momentum behind President Biden’s agenda. Republicans, too, had good reason to want the trial over with, closing a chapter that has been divisive and damaging to their party.