Donald Trump is angry, his lawyers are irritating, the prosecutors rely on the power of images: The impeachment process in the US Senate is focusing on emotions – almost everything is different than a year ago.
The historic second impeachment trial against Donald Trump started with a bang. Day one was supposed to be about the constitutional question of whether a president who had left office could still be condemned, but first of all it was impressive, emotional and brutal.
The prosecutors – that is, the House Democrats – started with a visual serve. They showed a video that showed Trump’s role and the developments in the attack on the Capitol a month ago in the most vivid way possible.
The thirteen minutes called out to mind how brutal the mob was: You heard a police officer scream, you saw you shoot, you heard shouts like “Hang Mike Pence!” – and again and again Trump, how he made his Vice Pence a south-goat when the Capitol had long since stormed.
Brutality and fear of death
The video was supposed to remind of the brutality and the fear of death that on January 6th had afflicted many of those who now have to judge Trump’s role: the 100 members of the US Senate. The prelude showed what the trial against Trump will look like: It will be more passionate and emotional than it was a year ago during the first impeachment proceedings for the Ukraine affair.
At that time a lot was abstract, there were no recordings. Now it’s about five deaths – or seven if you count the suicides of two policemen – 140 injured policemen and an attack on democracy.
Tuesday’s prelude showed that it will also be about the wounds and trauma the storm has created in the ranks of the Capitol.
“They thought they were going to die”
Democratic chief prosecutor, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, shed tears as he spoke on Jan. 6. How his daughter and son-in-law had to flee from the mob separately from him that day in the Capitol and sent him farewell text messages: “They thought they were going to die.”
The substantive exchange of blows in the process begins on Wednesday: The Democrats want to prove that Trump himself incited the mob and that this was a political outrage that is unparalleled among US presidents. Trump must be held responsible for this escalation, even if he has long since resided in Mar-a-Lago instead of the White House. The House of Representatives brought impeachment charges while Trump was in office.
With a conviction you also want to ensure that Trump is never allowed to run as a presidential candidate again.
Trump’s lawyers, on the other hand, will portray the process as overzealous, as a taboo break, because Trump has already left office. His lies about alleged electoral fraud are said to be covered in their argumentation by freedom of expression.
Round one goes to the Democrats
The first round on Tuesday went to the Democrats. The presentation by Raskin and his two colleagues was convincing, as many Republicans admitted afterwards. The appearance of the first Trump attorney Bruce Castor, however, confused even the political friends of the former president. “The first attorney was just babbling about and not addressing the constitutional issue,” says Texas Senator John Cornyn.
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A week earlier, Trump had fired his legal team and resorted to the services of Castor and David Schoen. Castor caused irritation not only to the senators and observers, but apparently also to Trump himself. The political retiree from Florida was furious when he followed Castor’s speech on TV, reported CNN and the New York Times.
Only six Republicans are leaving
Unlike a year ago, Trump himself cannot comment on what has happened on Twitter – his accounts are still blocked. Even if the strange appearance of his lawyer caused ridicule, the former president can actually watch the process relaxed: The ranks of his Republicans are still sufficiently closed.
In the formal vote on Tuesday on the question of whether the procedure is constitutional at all, a majority in the chamber voted yes – but only six were Republicans.
Most of his party friends continue to stand by his side because they Fear Trump’s influence on the electorate. The 17 deviants who would be needed for a conviction are not in sight even after the emotional start.