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Impeachment trial: The case for convicting President Trump

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden as President, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This is the first of our two-part series looking into the arguments for and against the second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

 

WASHINGTON — The second Senate impeachment trial against President Trump is set to start this week, and some political analysts believe it will be short, not even lasting a week.  Senate Democrats say the former president’s speech in early January directly led to rioters storming the U.S. Capitol, and some political analysts in Utah believe there is a strong case to convict him. 

According to Politico, some Senate Democrats don’t even want witnesses to be called, believing the president’s speech before the violent protest in Washington D.C. is all they need to focus on.  So, what are the odds of getting a conviction?

Utah State University Political Science Professor Michael Lyons says “It’s unlikely there’s going to be a conviction here, but, in the modern era of deeply divided partisanship, almost nothing that happens in government anymore surprises me.”

The real question is, did the president tell his supporters to storm the Capitol?  President Trump’s supporters say he condemned the violence more than once, and that he even called for a peaceful protest before the crowd marched to the Capitol.

President Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

Lyons agrees it would be impossible to prove President Trump deliberately intended to instigate something that turned into a riot.  However, he says senators need to look into more than just the specific language that was said.  Lyons says the president’s comments about the election being stolen could only stir his supporters to anger.

“One contextual factor is the mentality of the people who were demonstrating and his special relationship with them,” Lyons says.

He also thinks the Senate trial is more than just a hearing to determine if the former president is responsible for what happened at the Capitol.  He says it’s a chance for lawmakers to send a message about President Trump’s behavior, and there are plenty of legislators on both sides who condemn the former president.

“We know that there are the Democrats and probably some Republicans in the Senate.  There certainly were Republicans in the House,” he says.

Lyons and his colleague, Utah State University Political Science Professor Damon Cann, agree the Constitution isn’t extremely clear on whether the Senate has the authority to hold a trial for a former president.  However, Cann says the Senate has tried other politicians after they were out of office.  For example, Senator William Blount of Tennessee in 1797.

“He, as a senator, was involved in a scheme to give away parts of Louisiana and Florida to the British government.  When this was uncovered, it was a tremendous scandal.”

Cann says Blount was kicked out of office, then impeached in the House and tried in the Senate.  So, he believes the Senate does have the authority to hold a trial for President Trump.  Plus, if they want to bar the former president from holding office again, they can’t do that until they hold a trial.

“In my mind, it’s very clear the Senate has an obligation to hold a trial.”

Tomorrow, KSL Newsradio’s Lindsey Aerts lays out why most Senate Republicans believe it’s unconstitutional to even hold the trial, and how his legal teams argues he did not incite an insurrection.