The Senate on Tuesday voted to proceed with the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump. The final tally, however, showed that his Republican allies have enough support to potentially block the two-thirds vote necessary to convict him.
The 56-to-44 vote, with six Republicans joining all Democrats, paved the way for the case to formally open their arguments on Wednesday afternoon. They seek to prove that former President Trump incited an insurrection by encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol last month, disrupting the counting of Electoral College votes.
The 44 Republicans who agreed with former President Trump’s claim that a former president cannot be subject to an impeachment trial seemed to all but guarantee that he would have the 34 votes he needs on the final verdict to avoid conviction. To succeed, the House managers would need to persuade at least 11 Republican senators to find former President Trump guilty in a trial that they have deemed unconstitutional.
Never before has a president been tried by the Senate twice, much less after his term has expired. But former President Trump’s accusers argue that there must be no “January exception” for presidents to escape accountability for actions in the final days of their tenure.
Though former President Trump can no longer be removed from office, a conviction would allow the senators to bar him from running for federal office again. The managers cited conservative scholars vouching for the constitutionality of a post-presidency trial.
Former President Trump’s lawyers condemned the violence but rejected the suggestion that the former president was responsible for it. They maintained that the Constitution did not permit an impeachment trial of a former president because it was meant to lead to removal, which is now moot. If he committed a crime, they said, he could be prosecuted criminally.