After a vote that affirmed the constitutionality of impeaching a former president on Tuesday afternoon, Trump’s second Senate trial will get fully underway on Wednesday. Beginning at noon, Democratic impeachment managers will get a total of 16 hours divided over two days, followed by the same allotment for Trump’s defense, to argue for and against the conviction of the former president on the charge of inciting an insurrection. Here’s what to expect as the proceedings warm up.
What will the Democratic strategy be on Wednesday?
Most likely, House impeachment managers will continue to press the public angle, appealing to the audience at home, as the one in the Senate is entrenched along party lines. Expect more evidence linking Trump’s frequent protestations about a fraudulent election and his comments at the January 6 rally to actions taken at the Capitol riot.
It’s also likely that Democrats will push back on the defense’s claim that Trump was “horrified” when his protesters raided the Capitol. Reports from January 6 state that Trump was excited watching from the White House as the events unfolded. According to the Washington Post, he even pushed back on a message telling his supporters to “stay peaceful.”
Will Trump’s lawyers retool their defense after Tuesday’s performance?
After the House managers played an arresting video of the insurrection, the president’s attorneys did not excel in their roles on Tuesday afternoon, to the point that Republican senators in the audience described lawyers Bruce Castor and David Schoen as “disorganized” and doing “everything they could but to talk about the question at hand.” Trump, watching his defense from Mar-a-Lago was furious, according to Politico:
Trump watched as his defense attorneys responded to an emotional presentation by House impeachment managers with a series of dry, technical and at times meandering arguments about due process and the constitutionality of the proceedings. As they droned on, he grew increasingly frustrated with the sharp contrast between their muted response and the prosecution’s opening salvo, according to two people familiar with his thinking …
Some people close to the president’s defense team said they quit watching the proceedings out of sheer frustration with Castor’s presentation and were confused by his refusal to use graphics or a video — tools his TV-obsessed client had hoped to deploy.
It does not appear likely that Trump’s lawyers will shift strategies, judging from Republican National Committee talking points handed out on Tuesday:
Nor will they have to retool their strategy to ensure the president’s acquittal — even if Tuesday’s vote from Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy declaring the proceedings constitutional was a surprise. “Not a single thing will change,” South Carolina senator Tim Scott told Axios. “The outcome is set.”
What sort of challenges will the GOP’s 2024 contenders face this week?
Due to the trial’s inevitable results, the process is relatively low stakes for the majority of Republican senators who intend to acquit the former president. However, the field of 2024 hopefuls in the audience must figure out how to navigate a vote to acquit without endorsing the party’s most influential figure. According to Politico, that balancing act will involve staying out of the spotlight and continued arguments that the process itself is unconstitutional:
[But] the procedural rules of impeachment don’t help. Senate rules severely limit senators’ ability to speak during the trial itself, relegating on-camera appearances primarily to the Capitol hallways and TV cameras on the periphery. Those venues are less script-able than delivering prepared remarks in a committee hearing or on the Senate floor, leaving more room for error …
“For the Republicans who want to be president, they’re going to have to make their mark somehow as standing with Donald Trump on due process and fairness grounds,” said Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist and former deputy attorney general of Ohio. “Few of them will want to do a full-throated defense of everything Donald Trump said and did, which means the safest path is to point out that this is really a political stunt by the Democrats … You want to move from defense to offense.”