The impeachment trial of President Trump opens today in the US Senate. It’s just the third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history. Democrats slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Monday after he proposed rules that would rush the trial timeline, forcing Democrats to make their case over just two 12-hour days. Republicans would get the same amount of time. Senators will then have 16 hours for questions and four hours for debate. The rules also do not provide a guarantee that witnesses will be called to testify by forcing a vote on the issue. Four Republicans would have to side with Democrats in order to consider new witnesses and evidence. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused McConnell of orchestrating a “cover-up” by rushing through the trial. Bill Clinton’s Senate impeachment trial took over a month.
Ahead of today’s proceedings, Trump’s legal team called on senators Monday to “swiftly reject” the charges and acquit Trump. Trump’s lawyers argue in a brief that the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress “do not remotely approach the constitutional threshold for removing a president from office” and would “permanently weaken the presidency.” Trump recently added prominent lawyers Kenneth Starr and former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz to his legal team. Both Starr and Dershowitz helped serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein receive a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 when he was arrested on sex trafficking charges. One of Epstein’s victims also accused Dershowitz of sexually assaulting her, but Dershowitz has long denied the charge. Kenneth Starr’s probe led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Congressional impeachment managers argued in their own legal brief that Trump pressured a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 elections by withholding aid to Ukraine unless they announced investigations into his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Lead impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff has accused the White House of pressuring the NSA and CIA to withhold records about Ukraine that could be relevant to the impeachment trial.
Meanwhile, several news organizations, including C-SPAN, have criticized rules restricting press access to the trial.