WASHINGTON — The Senate prepared Monday to launch a historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump on the accusation that he instigated the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, with Democratic and Republican leaders agreeing on a rapid timetable that could bring the proceedings to a close within a week.

The charge is serious and the circumstances are unprecedented – it is the first impeachment trial for an ex-president as well as the first time any president has been impeached and tried twice. But there is little drama surrounding its outcome: The majority of Republican senators have signaled that they will not be voting to convict a former president.

Under a deal negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., there still exists the possibility that senators could vote after four days of arguments to extend the trial by calling witnesses and examining testimony that could shed new light on Trump’s actions and motivations surrounding the events of Jan. 6.

But that appeared exceedingly unlikely Monday, with Democrats wanting to move quickly to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal and Republicans seeking to get past the internally divisive debate over Trump as soon as possible. Several Senate aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said they expect an acquittal vote as soon as Feb. 15, Presidents’ Day.

Schumer said Monday that the deal would “allow for the trial to achieve its purpose: truth and accountability” – and force Republicans to go on the record

“The merits of the case against the former president will be presented, and the former president’s counsel will mount a defense,” Schumer said. “Ultimately, senators will decide on the one true question at stake in this trial: Is Donald Trump guilty of inciting a violent mob against the United States, a mob whose purpose was to interfere with the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power?”

In a new filing Monday, the nine House impeachment managers said the evidence for Trump’s conviction was already “overwhelming” and vowed to prove their case in the coming days.

“We live in a Nation governed by the rule of law, not mob violence incited by Presidents who cannot accept their own electoral defeat,” they said.

McConnell and Trump’s defense team also praised the trial agreement in brief statements.

“This process will provide us with an opportunity to explain to Senators why it is absurd and unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial against a private citizen,” Trump’s lawyers said, hours after they filed a 78-page legal brief – their most complete legal defense of Trump’s conduct to date.

In it, they relied heavily on the challenge to the constitutionality of impeaching a former president, as well as a First Amendment defense of Trump’s rhetoric leading up to the riot – which sought to disrupt the final congressional certification of Trump’s loss.

Mindful that they need to persuade 34 Republican senators to secure an acquittal, Trump’s lawyers cast their defense in a political light, calling the rapid impeachment effort the culmination of a long Democratic campaign to “silence a political opponent and a minority party” through impeachment.

“The Senate must summarily reject this brazen political act,” Trump attorneys Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen wrote. They said the lone impeachment article was “unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, any of which alone would be grounds for immediate dismissal.”

The defense team added: “Taken together, they demonstrate conclusively that indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our Republic, democracy and the rights that we hold dear.”

The nine House impeachment managers filed expansive arguments in favor of Trump’s conviction last week, accusing him of “a betrayal of historic proportions” by promoting the false claim that he, not Democratic candidate Biden, won the November election. Trump then stoked anger among his supporters, summoning them to Washington and finally directing them toward the Capitol as Congress met to count the electoral votes, the managers said.

“If provoking an insurrectionary riot against a Joint Session of Congress after losing an election is not an impeachable offense,” they wrote, “it is hard to imagine what would be.”

Trump’s attorneys outlined their rebuttal to that charge Monday: Simply put, Trump was engaged in free speech protected by the First Amendment when he questioned the election results – highlighting “electoral integrity issues essential to his career that he has consistently advocated, a position unpopular with his political opponents.”

“The attempt of the House to transmute Mr. Trump’s speech – core free speech under the First Amendment – into an impeachable offense cannot be supported, and convicting him would violate the very Constitution the Senate swears to uphold,” they wrote.

In a brief filing Monday, the managers criticized that free-speech argument as “utterly baseless,” saying Trump’s false claims and incendiary rhetoric were entitled to no such protection.

“When President Trump demanded that the armed, angry crowd at his Save America Rally ‘fight like hell’ or ‘you’re not going to have a country anymore,’ he wasn’t urging them to form political action committees about ‘election security in general,’ ” they said, quoting the Trump defense’s words.

The Democratic managers wrote: “The House did not impeach President Trump because he expressed an unpopular political opinion. It impeached him because he willfully incited violent insurrection against the government.”

The decision on whether to convict Trump and potentially bar him from future office is now in the hands of an evenly split Senate, with 67 votes out of 100 needed to secure a conviction.

The trial is already on track to be markedly different from Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, which lasted three weeks in a GOP-majority chamber, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

This time, Democrats are in charge, and senators of both major political parties are eyeing a more rapid proceeding. Instead of Roberts, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. – the Senate president pro tempore – is expected to preside.

Once the rules for the trial are adopted, the proceedings will begin Tuesday with a four-hour debate over whether the Constitution allows the Senate to try a president who has left office.

Trump’s legal team, some legal scholars and many Republican lawmakers have embraced arguments that it is unconstitutional to do so. In a signal that theory alone could be enough to win an acquittal, 45 of 50 Republican senators backed Trump on that question in a test vote last month – meaning another 12 Republicans would have to be persuaded that the trial is constitutionally permissible for the managers to have any hope of conviction.

Congressional Democrats and more than 150 constitutional scholars – including a founder of the conservative Federalist Society – say post-presidential impeachment, conviction and disqualification from holding future office are permitted. That view got an endorsement Sunday from an influential Republican lawyer, Charles Cooper, who said in a Wall Street Journal opinion article that removal was only a “mandatory minimum” punishment for an official convicted of impeachment.

“Given that the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former officeholders, it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders,” wrote Cooper, who has represented numerous prominent conservative politicians and causes. He is representing House Republicans in a constitutional challenge to a proxy voting system instituted by Democrats.

After the debate, senators will vote Tuesday on the constitutional argument against impeaching a former president. While there are almost certainly enough votes to jump past that initial hurdle, an outcome short of a 67-vote majority could reinforce the likelihood of an acquittal and put the proceedings on a glide path to a final verdict.

After the vote on constitutionality, opening arguments will begin Wednesday, with the House managers and the Trump defense team each entitled to up to 16 hours, spread over two days, to present their cases.

The trial will recess Friday evening through Saturday to honor Trump lawyer David Schoen’s request to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

Instead, Schoen said in a letter to the Senate, he has chosen not to participate during that interval.

Schoen said he changed course because of concern “about the delay in the proceedings in a process that I recognize is important to bring to a conclusion for all involved and for the country” and said “adjustments” had been made on the Trump defense team to allow for late Friday and Saturday sessions.

When the defense completes its arguments, senators will be entitled to a four-hour period in which they can ask written questions of the parties. That will be followed by two hours of debate on whether the parties should be permitted to subpoena witnesses or documents, followed by a vote on that question.

Should the Senate vote to subpoena witnesses or documents, the trial schedule would be upended, and senators probably would have to negotiate a new timetable for the completion of the trial, probably extending the proceedings for weeks.

It could pose a dilemma for Democrats who pushed strenuously – and unsuccessfully – for witnesses and documents a year ago during Trump’s first impeachment trial. Now, with the trial putting a Democratic president’s governing agenda on hold, they are taking a different view.

“The core of the case here is the president’s own words that incriminate him, show his guilty intent, his undeniable actions – not just speech – in inciting an assault on the Capitol,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters last week.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a moderate who has strongly criticized Trump’s actions surrounding the Capitol riot, said Monday that witnesses would be more appropriate in a potential criminal trial rather than in the Senate proceedings, which he called a “political trial.”

“The purpose is basically for history to know the seditious insurrection that happened and [Trump] being very much involved and responsible,” he said. “That’s what the trial will show.”

Members of the Trump defense team and Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have warned that if Democrats allow the managers to call witnesses, they could call witnesses of their own – extending the trial further.

“You open up Pandora’s box if you call one witness,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has advised Trump on his impeachment defense, said in a Feb. 1 Fox News interview.

Should the Senate vote to skip witnesses, the proceedings would move quickly to four hours of final argument and to an optional period of private Senate deliberations before a final vote on conviction.

In last year’s trial – on abuse of power and contempt of Congress charges surrounding Trump’s attempts to force Ukraine to investigate Biden’s son – the Senate chose not to deliberate as a group before holding the final votes. Trump was acquitted on both articles, with only one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voting to convict.

This time, several other Republicans are believed to be in play for a possible conviction vote – starting with the five who backed the constitutionality of trying a former president in last month’s test vote: Romney, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania. But that group falls far short of the 17 Republican votes that would be needed, in addition to 50 Democratic votes, to secure a conviction.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., floated a possible Trump censure resolution last month – a suggestion that quickly sputtered. But he said at a Washington Post Live event Monday that the weight of the trial could support a third option beyond conviction or acquittal.

“The evidence could be so graphic that it might make some Republicans say, ‘We have to do something,’ and Democrats … might decide, maybe it shouldn’t be impeachment or nothing, maybe there is an alternative we could consider,” Kaine said. “So I think it’s still very much a live option.”

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