Welcome to our live coverage of Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Yes, that's right, this thing is finally happening, more than a month since the Capitol riot and almost three weeks since Mr Trump left office.

There was good reason for the delay. It gave the former president time to prepare his defence, and gave the Senate time to deal with some essential business in the early days of the Biden administration. But we're here now and ready to get underway.

So, how does it work? Simple. The trial is happening in the US Senate, with the 100 senators acting as jurors. The threshold for conviction is 67 votes - anything less, and Mr Trump will be acquitted. That means at least 17 members of his own party would have to vote against him.

In the unlikely event that such a thing happens, the Senate could then hold a vote to bar Mr Trump from running for office again.

He was impeached back on January 13, on a single charge: incitement of insurrection. The Democrats' impeachment managers will argue Mr Trump was responsible for the violence that unfolded on January 6 as his supporters tried to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes by storming the Capitol.

Expect to hear a lot about the misinformation Mr Trump spouted after his election defeat, his speech to supporters in Washington D.C. just before the riot, and his response to the violence once it started.

Mr Trump's legal team, meanwhile, is saying the trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer president.

That argument will dominate this first day of proceedings. Up to four hours have been set aside for a debate on the constitutionality issue, which will be followed by a vote to determine whether the trial proceeds.

The impeachment managers started their argument by playing a lengthy video timeline of the events of January 6, including Donald Trump's speech, the violence at the Capitol and the then-president's video message and tweets a couple of hours after it started.

None of this footage, to my eye, was new, but much of it was still brutal to watch.

"Senators, the president was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13 for doing that," Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, said when the video had finished.

"You ask what a high crime and misdemeanour is under our Constitution? That's a high crime and misdemeanour. If that's not an impeachable offence, then there is no such thing.

"And if the president's arguments for a January exception are upheld, then even if everyone agrees that he's culpable for these events, even if the evidence proves - as we think it definitely does - that the president incited a violent insurrection on the day Congress met to finalise the election, he would have you believe there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it.

"He wants you to decide that the Senate is powerless at that point. That can't be right."

What the Constitution says about impeachment

Jamie Raskin has handed over to one of his fellow impeachment managers, Congressman Joe Neguse (for future reference, all of the impeachment managers are Democrats).

We're getting a bit less emotive now and a bit more technical. Mr Neguse went through the language of Article I of the Constitution, which lays out Congress's impeachment power.

That language says the Senate's punishment of an impeached president "shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States".

"The meaning is clear. The Senate has the power to impose removal, which only applies to current officials, and separately is has the power to impose disqualification, which obviously applies to both current and former officers," Mr Neguse said.

"As I understand President Trump's argument, they believe that this language somehow says that disqualification can only follow removal of a current officer. But it doesn't. That interpretation essentially rewrites the Constitution. It adds words that aren't there.

"Just imagine the consequences of such an absurd interpretation of the Constitution. If President Trump were right about that language, then officials could commit the most extraordinary, destructive offences against the American people, and they would have total control over whether they could be impeached and, if they are, whether the Senate can try the case.

"If they want to escape the risk of disqualification from future office, it's pretty simple. They could just resign one minute before the House impeaches, or even one minute before the Senate trial. Or they could resign during the Senate trial, if it's not looking so well.

"That would effectively erase disqualification from the Constitution. It would put wrongdoers in charge of whether the Senate can try."

Democrats say Trump's argument 'inconceivable'

Jamie Raskin has spent some time now talking about US history and the men who wrote the country's Constitution. Whenever you hear someone mention the "framers" - it's going to happen a lot during this trial - that is who they're talking about.

Mr Raskin offered a quote from one of those framers, Alexander Hamilton, about the danger of "political opportunists who begin as demagogues and end as tyrants".

"President Trump may not know a lot about the framers, but they certainly knew a lot about him," he said.

"Given the framers' intense focus on dangers to elections and peaceful transfer of power, it is inconceivable that they designed impeachment to be a dead letter in a president's final days in office, when opportunities to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power would be most tempting and most dangerous - as we just saw."

Side note - I now have a Hamilton song stuck in my head again. It's the first Cabinet rap battle, if you're interested.

Full video the impeachment managers played


At last, somebody has posted the full video online, so you can watch it for yourself. Here you go.


Brutal footage of riot played at trial

The impeachment managers played a lengthy video timeline of the events of January 6, including Donald Trump's speech, the violence at the Capitol and the then-president's video message and tweets a couple of hours after it started.

Our video team will cut the whole thing for you but in the meantime here are some parts of the clip, via Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.


None of this footage, to my eye, was new, but much of it was still brutal to watch.

"Senators, the president was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13 for doing that," Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, said when the video had finished.

"You ask what a high crime and misdemeanour is under our Constitution? That's a high crime and misdemeanour. If that's not an impeachable offence, then there is no such thing.

"And if the president's arguments for a January exception are upheld, then even if everyone agrees that he's culpable for these events, even if the evidence proves - as we think it definitely does - that the president incited a violent insurrection on the day Congress met to finalise the election, he would have you believe there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it.

"He wants you to decide that the Senate is powerless at that point. That can't be right."

Democrats start to make their case

The resolutions laying out the structure of the trial has passed. Now we are moving on to the debate that will dominate the rest of today - whether or not the trial is constitutional.

Donald Trump's legal team says it is not, and will soon get to make its case, which will be followed by a vote on the matter. First though, we're hearing from the prosecution.

Jamie Raskin, who is the lead impeachment manager from the House, is now addressing the Senate.

"Because I've been a professor of constitutional law for decades, I know there are a lot of people who are dreading endless lectures about the Federalist Papers here. Please breathe easy," he quipped.

"I remember well the line that a professor is 'someone who speaks while other people are sleeping'. You will not be hearing extended lectures from me, because our case is based on cold, hard facts. It's all about the facts.

"President Trump has sent his lawyers here today to try to stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case. They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced.

"Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offence in your last weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it. In other words, conduct that would be a high crime and misdemenaour in your first year as president, in your second year as president, in your third year as president, and for the vast majority of your fourth year as president, you can suddenly do in your last few weeks in office without facing any constitutional accountability at all.

"This would create a brand new 'January exception' to the Constitution of the United States.

"Everyone can see immediately why this is so dangerous. It's an invitation to the president to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hold on to the Oval Office at all costs and to block the peaceful transfer of power.

"The January exception is an invitation to our founders' worst nightmare. And if we buy this radical argument that President Trump's lawyers advance, we risk allowing January 6 to become our future.

"Think about it. What will the January exception mean to future generations if you grant it. I'll show you."

He then played a little pre-prepared video compilation of what happened on January 6.

'I did not ask to preside over this trial'

I mentioned that Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is presiding over the trial as president pro tempore of the Senate.

If Donald Trump were still in office, that role would be filled by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. However, as he is a former president, Justice Roberts' services are not required.

Mr Leahy has written to his colleagues to inform them of how he intends to conduct proceedings.

"As many of you know, I did not ask or seek to preside over this trial. Yet while I occupy the office of the president pro tempore, it is incumbent on me to do so," he said.

"My intention and solemn obligation is to conduct this trial with fairness to all. I will adhere, as have my predecessors in the Senate who have presided over impeachment trials, to the Constitution and to applicable Senate rules, precedent and governing resolutions."

He said he'd do what he could to ensure the trial "reflects the best traditions of the Senate".

Trial starts: 'Gravest charges ever brought' against a president

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was the first speaker to be recognised by Senator Patrick Leahy, who is presiding over the trial as the president pro tempore of the Senate.

Mr Schumer described the article of impeachment as "the gravest charges every brought" against a president in US history.

"It's our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair and honest impeachment trial," he said.

He proceeded to put forward the resolution laying out the rules and structure of the trial. The details were agreed to by the Republican leader Mitch McConnell ahead of time, so there was never any question about the resolution passing.

Impeachment trial about to begin

We're just a few minutes away from the start of proceedings now, which means we're getting to enjoy all the delightfully awkward shots of senators making their way to the chamber.

It's a bit like watching the prelude to a leadership spill in Canberra. Lots of people very obviously trying to walk naturally, keenly aware that a few dozen cameras are watching them.


Democrats call Trump's argument 'dangerous'


The House impeachment managers have filed a response to that brief I mentioned from Donald Trump's lawyers, saying it "confirms that he has no good defence".

They seem keen to stress that the charge against Mr Trump, "incitement of insurrection", does not just refer to the speech he gave to a crowd of supporters on January 6, but also includes his conduct in the months after the election.

"President Trump now studiously ignores all that preceded his speech and provided meaning and context to his statements, asking the Senate to do the same and focus only on a handful of his remarks in isolation," the managers say.

They also don't like the defence's argument that the trial is unconstitutional because Mr Trump is no longer president.

"Because President Trump's guilt is obvious, he seeks to evade responsibility for inciting the insurrection by arguing that the Senate lacks jurisdiction," they say.

"President Trump's jurisdictional argument is both wrong as a matter of constitutional law and dangerous as a matter of Senate practice.

"It would leave the Senate powerless to hold presidents accountable for misconduct committed near the end of their terms."

'Let me finish': Palin in fiery interview

The tension emanating from Washington D.C. this morning extended all the way across the Atlantic as former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin went on Good Morning Britain to discuss the impeachment trial.

Ms Palin clashed repeatedly with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, who pushed back on her claims about election irregularities throughout the 13-minute interview.

"There is no question (the mob) were whipped up because they believed their president, who told them the election had been stolen, fraudulently stolen. That was a lie, wasn't it?" Morgan asked her.

"The president has been insisting, so many Americans have been insisting, that our elections are run legally and transparently. And when there were shenanigans, obviously, in so many of the polling areas, the president has insisted that we look into where all these votes had come from," Ms Palin responded.

"But the election wasn't stolen, was it Sarah Palin?" Morgan interjected.

"Let's be honest. Let's be clear. The election was won fair and square, by a thumping win by Joe Biden. Do you accept that?"

"I want to see that our elections, and every polling place, is run cleanly," she said, at which point Reid jumped in.

"The question was, do you accept the election victory by Joe Biden?" she interjected.

"This is crazy. You guys invited me to come on. Let me finish please," said Ms Palin.

"You didn't answer my question!" said Morgan.

"Let me finish," she repeated.

The rest of the interview continued in much the same fashion. Eventually, Morgan declared that Ms Palin was "bonkers".

"I say this with the utmost respect to you, you're sounding totally bonkers," he told her.

"And part of the problem for the Republican party is that people like you, high level members, high profile members of the party are still perpetuating this utter load of nonsense."


What Donald Trump's team will argue

Donald Trump's defence is being led by lawyers Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen. Yesterday they filed a 75-page brief laying out their arguments in detail.

"During the past four years, Democrat members of the House of Representatives have filed at least nine resolutions to impeach Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, each containing charges more outlandish than the next," the brief declared.

"One might have been excused for thinking that the Democrats' fevered hatred for Citizen Trump and their 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' would have broken by now, seeing as he is no longer the president, and yet for the second time in just over a year the Senate is preparing to sit as a court of impeachment, but this time over a private citizen who is a former president.

"In this country, the Constitution - not a political party and not politicians - reigns supreme. But through this latest article of impeachment now before the Senate, Democrat politicians seek to carve out a mechanism by which they can silence a political opponent and a minority party. The Senate must summarily reject this brazen political act.

"The intellectual dishonesty and factual vacuity put forth by the House managers in their trial memorandum only serve to further punctuate the point that this impeachment proceeding was never about seeking justice.

"Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol.

"Instead of acting to heal the nation, or at the very least focusing on prosecuting the lawbreakers who stormed the Capitol, the Speaker of the House and her allies have tried to callously harness the chaos of the moment for their own political gain."

The core argument from the defence is that the trial is unconstitutional because Mr Trump is no longer in office. We'll see that point get debated at length in a few hours.

On top of that, though, his team is disputing each of the allegations contained in the article of impeachment on their merits.

For example, the former president's lawyers have described the idea that his speech at a rally just before the Capitol riot on January 6 incited violence as "absurd".

"Contrary to the false narrative set forth by the House managers, Mr Trump's speech was never directed to inciting or producing any imminent lawless action," they argued in yesterday's brief.

"It is important to read the speech in its entirety, because the House managers played shamefully fast and loose with the truth as they cherrypicked its content.

"(The) claim that he could be responsible if a small group of criminals (who had come to the Capitol of their own accord armed and ready for a fight) completely misunderstood him, were so enamoured with him and inspired with his words that they left his speech early, and then walked a mile-and-a-half away to 'imminently' do the opposite of what he had just asked for, is simply absurd.

"His statements cannot and could not reasonably be interpreted as a call to immediate violence or a call for a violent overthrow of the United States' government."

The brief said Mr Trump was engaging in political speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

It also rejected the argument that Mr Trump "did not act swiftly enough" to stop the violence, blaming "complex procedural elements involved in quelling a riot" for the time it took for law enforcement to reclaim control of the Capitol.

"There was a flurry of activity inside the White House working to mobilise assets," it says, adding that Mr Trump was "horrified" by the actions of his supporters.

How the impeachment trial will unfold

Welcome! Let's get this live coverage started with a breakdown of how the impeachment trial is going to unfold.

The proceedings kick off at 1pm in Washington D.C., which is 5am in Sydney. We'll start with a debate on whether or not the trial is constitutional, which could last up to four hours.

After that, the Senate will vote on the matter. Most Republican senators are expected vote against proceeding with the trial, but there aren't enough of them to form a majority.

Late last month, when one senator put forward a motion to declare the trial unconstitutional, it was defeated 55-45. We're probably heading for a similar margin later today.

With that out of the way, the prosecution - represented by nine impeachment managers from the House - will start to present its case from midday tomorrow.

The two sides will get 16 hours each to put forward their arguments, and then the senators will have four hours to pose any questions they might have.

There'll also be a brief debate on whether to subpoena witnesses or documents. We don't yet know whether the Democrats will seek to call witnesses. If they do, it will obviously lengthen the trial.

Finally, each side will get four hours for closing arguments, and then the senators will vote on whether or not to convict Donald Trump.

Keep the number 67 in mind - that's how many votes are needed for a conviction.

Also, you should be aware that the two sides have agreed to take a break from 5pm on Friday, so there will be no action that evening. They will continue to work over the weekend, however.

Originally published as Brutal start to Trump's impeachment trial


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