US Senate votes to proceed with Trump impeachment trial

Senators vote on whether former president Donald Trump is subject to impeachment after having left office. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Senate voted on Tuesday (Feb 9) to proceed with the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, rejecting defence arguments that it was unconstitutional.

Defence lawyers had argued that Mr Trump should not face a trial in the Senate for inciting insurrection because he was no longer president.

But the Senate voted 56-44 to proceed with the trial, with six Republicans joining Democratic lawmakers.

The trial began earlier on Tuesday with debate on whether trying an ex-president is indeed constitutional.

"You will not be hearing extended lectures here from me because our case is based on cold, hard facts," lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, a lawmaker from Maryland, told senators.

He dismissed the argument of Mr Trump's lawyers that he should not be tried at all.

"Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offence in your last few weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it," Mr Raskin said.

"In other words, conduct that will be a high crime and misdemeanor in your first year as president and your second year as president and 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," he said.

"This would create a brand new January exception to the constitution of the United States of America."

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Donald Trump's historic post-presidency impeachment trial began in the Senate on Tuesday, with Democrats showing graphic video of last month's deadly storming of the US Capitol that he is charged with inciting.

Mr Raskin then presented a lengthy video montage of scenes from the Jan 6 storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters, after the former president gave a fiery speech urging them to contest Joe Biden's election victory.

The video footage included scenes from Mr Trump's pre-riot speech, and then scenes of violence as his supporters broke into the Capitol.

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