February 25, 2021

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Live Updates and Video: Trump Impeachment Trial – The New York Times

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The second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins in earnest on Tuesday in the Capitol, as National Guard soldiers continue to guard the area in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the building.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

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 in an unsuccessful attempt last month 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 public 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.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager in former President Donald J. Trump’s trial, talking with fellow House managers in an empty hearing room on Monday as they prepare for their opening arguments.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins on Tuesday, about a month after he was charged by the House with incitement of insurrection for his role in egging on a violent mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Here’s what you need to know.

A bipartisan agreement reached on Monday could pave the way for an especially quick and efficient proceeding that could be over by early next week.

The Senate is poised to vote to approve the rules and formally begin the trial at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Up to four hours will be devoted to debating the constitutionality of impeaching a president who is no longer in office. If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the main part of the trial begins.

Starting Wednesday, the prosecution and the defense will have 16 hours each to present their cases to the senators, who are serving as a jury.

Tradition dictates that senators are then allowed at least one day to ask questions. The trial is expected to conclude with closing arguments and a final vote on whether to convict Mr. Trump.

In a fast-paced and cinematic case, the House managers will argue before the Senate that Mr. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The prosecution plans to show videos captured by the mob, Mr. Trump’s unvarnished words and criminal pleas from rioters who said they acted at the former president’s behest. House managers are aiming for a conviction and to bar Mr. Trump from holding office again.

In a 78-page brief filed on Monday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the impeachment proceedings were unconstitutional because Congress has no basis for judging a former president.

On Friday, more than 140 constitutional lawyers took aim at that argument, calling it “legally frivolous.”

Former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers are set to argue that the Constitution forbids a former president to be put on trial.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The very first issue to be considered in the opening hours of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday will be the question of whether it is constitutional to put an impeached former president on trial at all.

Senate Republicans who voted last month to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional came under pressure on Sunday to re-evaluate their position when a leading conservative constitutional lawyer, Charles J. Cooper — who has been a close ally and adviser to Republican senators like Ted Cruz of Texas — argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that their claims about the constitutionality of the proceeding were unfounded.

The impeachment put pressure on Senate Republicans to either condone or repudiate Mr. Trump’s conduct. Some set aside the question to instead focus on the process itself, arguing that whether or not Mr. Trump’s actions constituted high crimes and misdemeanors, the Senate could not try him because the Constitution did not allow a former president to stand trial for impeachment.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers are expected to make a narrower and more technical argument that the Constitution forbids a former president to be put on trial.

“The Senate of the United States lacks jurisdiction over the 45th president because he holds no public office from which he can be removed, rendering the article of impeachment moot,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David Schoen, wrote in a 14-page response to the House managers last week.

Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to broadly assert that a president can be put on trial for offenses committed in office, no matter when the trial is held. Otherwise, the Democrats say, there would be no way to hold to account a president who commits wrongdoing in the final weeks of a term.

In the opinion piece, Mr. Cooper took on the Republicans’ assertion that because the penalty for an impeachment conviction is removal from office, it was never intended to apply to a former president.

Mr. Cooper argued that the Constitution gives the Senate the power to bar convicted officials from holding office again, writing, “It defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”

During his last morning as president, Donald J. Trump arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Unlike his first senate impeachment trial, former President Donald J. Trump has no Twitter feed to use as a cannon aimed squarely at his political rivals as the proceedings unfold.

Instead, as the trial begins Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump is expected to be busy with meetings at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., while sporadically watching the trial, people close to him said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump is being represented by two lawyers, David I. Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr., who will carry his message that the trial is unconstitutional because he is out of office, and that his language did not incite the violence by his supporters who mobbed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

A handful of aides will post on Twitter in defense of Mr. Trump. Officials at the Republican National Committee are also expected to be part of a rapid-response effort.

But the focus of the trial, Mr. Trump, is expected to remain out of sight.

Mr. Trump’s aides have constructed an office for him at Mar-a-Lago, separate from his residence, and it was unclear on Tuesday morning where he would watch the televised Senate proceedings.

Mr. Trump has lost his favored weapon to use against Democrats and to keep Republicans from breaking with him: his Twitter feed. But the former president is said to have adjusted to a life without it and a press corps assigned to cover the office he inhabited.

Mr. Trump is said to have told aides he is happy away from Twitter. His adviser, Jason Miller, recently told The Times of London that he was just fine despite Twitter banning him in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Since he flew out of Andrews Air Force Base for the final time on the morning of Jan. 20, Mr. Trump has spent several days golfing or meeting with people at Mar-a-Lago.

On Sunday evening, he was videotaped making an appearance among the club’s guests during the Super Bowl, wearing a suit, as he almost always does at the club.

President Biden walking to the Oval Office at the White House on Monday.
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President Biden’s predecessor stands accused of fomenting an insurrection, but the White House insists that Mr. Biden will hardly be paying attention.

As the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump begins Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Biden is scheduled to be meeting in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the vice president, and a handful of business executives for a discussion about the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package being debated on Capitol Hill, and Mr. Biden’s push to increase the minimum wage.

“I think it’s clear from his schedule, and from his intention, he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday.

Mr. Biden and his team have gone out of their way for weeks to insist that responding to Mr. Trump’s actions ahead of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol should be left to members of Congress. Ms. Psaki repeatedly waved off questions about what Mr. Biden thought about how the trial should be conducted.

Now that the spectacle is beginning, the White House is maintaining that above-the-fray posture. Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to receive their daily intelligence briefing on Tuesday morning. Ms. Psaki will hold her daily exchange with reporters even as senators begin their impeachment debate.

The afternoon meeting with Ms. Yellen will also include chief executives: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Doug McMillon of Walmart; Sonia Syngal of the Gap; Marvin R. Ellison of Lowes; and Thomas J. Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A White House news release described the meeting as an opportunity for Mr. Biden to press his case for “the critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy.” But one person said the president also intended to discuss his case for increasing the minimum wage.

Mr. Biden has proposed an increase in the minimum wage to $15 as part of his virus relief package. The chamber asked Mr. Biden in a letter this month to drop the minimum wage increase from his relief proposal. At least one Democratic senator is on record opposing the increase, which could make it difficult to pass in the evenly divided chamber.

Mr. McMillion, the Walmart chief, said last month that he opposes a universal minimum wage increase to $15, saying wage increases should take into account regional differences and the impact on small businesses.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, speaking at a news conference outside the Capitol last week.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A big difference between the second and first impeachment trials of Donald J. Trump is the sound of (relative) silence.

The former president is muzzled on social media, and his allies were putting up a scattered defense of him on Tuesday. Even those willing to step forward have, for the most part, abandoned his false claim that the election was stolen, and were defending him on narrow legal or constitutional grounds.

It was an emblem of how much has changed in the last year. Mr. Trump, a one-term ex-president, still maintains a tight grip on his party. But a year ago, he had them in a headlock.

His biggest booster Tuesday morning was the person who has most tightly bound her political fortunes to him — Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman Republican from Georgia who was stripped of her committee assignments last week for violent and conspiratorial statements.

“The Capitol attack was planned and organized, NOT incited in the moment by President Trump, and NO Republican Member was involved,” Ms. Greene, who described Jan. 6 as “1776 Day” before the riot, wrote on Twitter. “We were ALL victims that day. And once again, Trump is the victim of the never ending hate fueled witch hunt.”

Ms. Greene’s full support of the former president came as other Trump allies focused their comments on the decision by the Senate to hold the trial at all and casting it as an argument over constitutional principles (freedom of speech and whether a former president can be tried after leaving office) rather than a defense of his behavior.

That was a striking contrast from a year ago when Senator Mitch McConnell, their leader, blasted the first impeachment attempt as the “most unfair” in history.

“Do you really think impeaching an outsider who is fighting the system makes people like him less?” asked Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s first 2020 campaign manager, in a tweet on Monday.

“The Senate is now set to spend yet another week focused on impeaching a private citizen from an office he no longer holds,” Representative Lauren Boebert, a first-term Republican from Colorado who also encouraged the protesters, wrote late Monday on Twitter. “The Left doesn’t know how to govern and is still focused on trying to blame Trump for everything.”

Gregg Jarrett, a Fox News legal commentator, was one of the few supporters to offer a more comprehensive defense of Mr. Trump’s actions in the hours leading up to the riot.

In an op-ed posted on the network’s site early Tuesday, he argued that the former president’s speech outside the White House did “not come close to meeting the definition of incitement.”

Sean Hannity, the Fox host and Trump adviser, spent more of his show on Monday lashing out at Democrats then explicitly defending his friend’s actions, claiming that impeachment was “like a drug” and that liberals had become addicted to it.

Over the past few days, the Twitter accounts of many Republicans who had fiercely defended Mr. Trump during his first trial, had turned to other topics.

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House who was one of Mr. Trump’s stoutest defenders a year ago, on Tuesday blasted the two-week-old Biden administration for “taking away” jobs from blue-collar workers. And Mr. Trump’s former White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, posted a string of tweets celebrating the Super Bowl victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Justice Department dropped a lawsuit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide and friend of Melania Trump’s who had written a critical memoir.
Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has withdrawn a lawsuit it brought in October against a onetime friend and aide to Melania Trump over her book, one of several cases in which the Trump administration went after former allies who wrote critical memoirs.

The Biden administration’s requested on Monday to dismiss the case against the friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, which Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered. That brought to an abrupt end a lawsuit whose filing had prompted accusations that Trump administration officials were abusing their power over the machinery of federal law enforcement to enact retribution.

Ms. Wolkoff’s book, “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,” depicted the then-first lady as selfish and shallow. The book contains no classified information, but the Justice Department accused Ms. Wolkoff of violating a nondisclosure agreement.

A department official said its new leadership had evaluated the case and concluded that ending it was in the best interests of the United States based on the facts and the law.

“We are very pleased that the Department of Justice has dismissed this lawsuit,” Lorin L. Reisner, a lawyer for Ms. Wolkoff, said in a statement.

The Trump administration used the Justice Department to go after several onetime members of the Trump circle who wrote harsh tell-alls.

In 2018, the day after it became public that Mr. Trump’s former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman had written an unflattering book, the Trump White House asked the department to open an investigation into a paperwork dispute that led to a government lawsuit against her. Her lawyer filed a motion for summary judgment last week.

In June, the department asked a judge to issue an extraordinary order requiring Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John R. Bolton pull his already printed memoir, which presents a negative account of Mr. Trump. The judge refused to grant that order but is still weighing the department’s request to seize Mr. Bolton’s $2 million advance in a dispute over the prepublication review process.

In July, a judge ruled that department officials had engaged in retaliation against Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, who was about to publish “Disloyal: A Memoir,” which portrays the president as a mafia-like figure. Mr. Cohen was serving a prison sentence at home because of the pandemic, but officials had ordered him returned to prison when he refused their demand that he sign an agreement not to publish the book.

In recent weeks, two voting-technology companies have each filed 10-figure lawsuits against Mr. Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Former President Donald J. Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will begin oral arguments on Tuesday but the apparatus that fed him much of his power — the conservative news media — is facing a test of its own. This might ultimately have a much bigger impact on the future of American politics than anything that happens to Mr. Trump as an individual.

In recent weeks, two voting-technology companies have each filed 10-figure lawsuits against Mr. Trump’s lawyers and his allies in the media, claiming they spread falsehoods that did tangible harm. This comes amid an already-raging debate over whether to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online companies from being held liable for the views expressed on their platforms.

“The greatest consequence of the Trump presidency has been the weaponizing of disinformation and parallel dismantling of trust in the media,” said Mark McKinnon, a longtime political strategist and co-host of the Showtime political series “The Circus.”

“Unfortunately, it took the perpetration of the big lie that the election was a fraud, an insurrection at the Capitol, and almost destroying our democracy for someone to finally take action,” Mr. McKinnon said. “But it appears to be working. Nothing like threatening the bottom line to get the desired attention.”

On Thursday, the voting-machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, some of its prominent hosts and two lawyers who represented Mr. Trump, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. The suit accuses them of mounting a campaign of defamation by claiming that Smartmatic had been involved in an effort to throw the election. That came on the heels of a similar $1.3 billion suit that Dominion Voting Systems brought against Mr. Giuliani the week before.

The impact was immediate. Newsmax, an ultraconservative TV station that has expanded its popularity by lining up to the right of Fox News, cut off an interview with the MyPillow founder Mike Lindell last week while he attacked Dominion — something that commentators had done on the station many times before. Then, over the weekend, Fox Business sidelined Lou Dobbs, one of Mr. Trump’s fiercest TV news defenders and a defendant named in the Smartmatic lawsuit.

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