The second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins on Tuesday afternoon, a history-making moment for the institution of the presidency and one that could have lasting political repercussions as the Republican Party charts its future.
Mr. Trump already has claimed the unwelcome distinction of being the first president to be impeached twice. His first Senate trial, over his pressure campaign on Ukraine, ended in acquittal a year ago.
The new trial is most likely headed toward the same outcome, especially after all but five Republican senators voted last month in support of an unsuccessful attempt to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional. Seventeen Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats to convict Mr. Trump of the charge he faces, “incitement of insurrection.”
The proceedings will nevertheless be filled with high-stakes legal and political calculations.
The House impeachment managers have an opportunity to present a vivid portrait of a truth-defying president who stirred up his supporters to wage a deadly assault on the Capitol. Laying out their case in a brief last week, they declared that Mr. Trump was “singularly responsible” for the siege and should be convicted and disqualified from holding federal office ever again.
In a brief on Monday offering a defense of the former president, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said he “did not direct anyone to commit lawless actions,” and they argued that the Senate had no power to try a former president.
The trial is expected to be fast. Each side has up to 16 hours to make their case, and a final vote on whether to convict or acquit Mr. Trump could take place early next week. That timeline would make it the fastest impeachment trial for a president in history.
It will unfold at a politically delicate moment for both Republicans and Democrats, though in markedly different ways. Republicans face deep divisions over the party’s path forward in the wake of Mr. Trump’s presidency, as evidenced by the backlash against the 10 House Republicans who voted last month to impeach him. The trial will place a spotlight yet again on Mr. Trump’s conduct following an election defeat he refused to accept.
Democrats are determined to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his actions, but they also have another major consideration: the fate of President Biden’s agenda in the first weeks of his presidency. Mr. Biden is seeking to win passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, a sizable legislative undertaking that congressional Democrats do not wish to delay.