Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse and other congressional Democrats made their opening arguments in the second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, rejecting assertions by Trump’s defense team that presidents cannot be impeached and convicted after leaving office.
“You don’t need to be a constitutional scholar to know that the argument President Trump asks you to adopt is not just wrong, it’s dangerous,” Neguse, who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives, told senators. “Over 150 constitutional scholars, experts, judges, conservative, liberal, you name it — they overwhelmingly have reached the same conclusion: that of course you can try, convict and disqualify a former president.”
Neguse and fellow Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver were selected as two of the nine House impeachment managers tasked with prosecuting Trump, who was impeached for the second time last month over charges that he helped incite a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Trump’s lawyers sought to bring a swift end to the trial by asking the Senate to vote on the question of whether a former president can be impeached. Neguse urged senators to reject that argument, citing a range of precedents including the case of William Belknap, who in 1876 faced a Senate trial over corruption charges after resigning as Secretary of War.
“Just imagine the consequences of such an absurd interpretation of the Constitution,” Neguse said of Trump’s argument. “Officials could commit the most extraordinary, destructive offenses against the American people … and if they want to escape any public inquiry into their misconduct, or the risk of disqualification from future office, then it’s pretty simple: they just resign one minute before the House impeaches, or even one minute before the Senate trial.”
After nearly four hours of arguments, the Senate ruled in a 56-44 vote that former presidents can be impeached, with six Republican senators joining all 50 Democrats in rejecting the Trump defense team’s argument. The impeachment trial will continue on Wednesday, with another three days of initial arguments expected, followed by a Q&A period and closing arguments. A two-thirds majority — 67 senators — is required to convict.
“What you experienced that day, what we experienced that day, what our country experienced that day, is the framers’ worst nightmare come to life,” Neguse told the Senate. “Presidents can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened.”