Trump impeachment trial morphs into time machine on Day 1

Trump impeachment trial morphs into time machine on Day 1

The opening arguments at former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial kicked off with the most modern of evidence: a powerful video, spliced together largely from social media, forcing senators to relive the disturbing events of Jan. 6, 2021.

However, as advocates dove into the constitutional arguments, the assembled lawmakers soon found themselves being transported back in time to 18th-century England and even to ancient Greece and Rome.

Both sides trotted out historical examples to buttress their arguments on the pivotal, threshold issue occupying the trial’s first day: whether the Constitution allows for impeachment proceedings against Trump despite the fact that he is no longer in office.

House managers insisted that the precedents squarely favored their view. They invoked the case of William Belknap, a secretary of war who quit moments before the House impeached him back in 1876. The Senate held a trial for Belknap anyway, which Democrats consider powerful support for pressing on with the Trump impeachment even as he lives out the early weeks of his post-presidency in Florida.

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