The prosecution’s case against Donald Trump is over – what’s next?

The prosecution’s case against Donald Trump is over.

After two days of statements, videos, tweets, photos, articles, interviews, arguments and opinion, the former president stands accused of bringing himself, and his country, into violent disrepute.

The central case is that, over the course of several years, Donald Trump linked politics and violence.

That he turned a blind eye, or even encouraged and eulogised, attacks carried out by his supporters, gradually turning his brand of political activism into a blend of rhetoric and threat.

A protest sign reading "Impeach" is seen on Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House one week after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., January 13, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott
Image:A protest sign reading ‘Impeach’ was hung near the White House a week after rioters stormed the Capitol

The Democrats say that reached a natural conclusion on 6 January, when Mr Trump’s supporters heard him address them at a rally, listened as he said they should “fight like hell” and then – inspired, furious and energised – stormed the Capitol building, believing themselves to be acting on Mr Trump’s instructions.

What’s more, goes the argument, he has shown no remorse, made little attempt to stop the attack and remains a dangerous, inflammatory presence in American life.

Democrats, clearly, don’t just want to convict him, but also to follow that up with a vote to ban the former president from ever again holding public office.

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Senate members are sworn in for the impeachment trial at the US Capitol. Pic: AP
Image:Senate members are sworn in for the hearing at the US Capitol. Pic: AP

But the chances of this remain slender.

It would take 17 Republican senators to vote alongside the Democrats, which would be an extraordinary turn of events.

And they can’t vote to bar him from office unless he has already been convicted of incitement.

FBI most wanted
Image:Pro-Trump supporters at the protest on 6 January

The defence case is likely to take only a matter of hours to present and is likely to revolve around three thoughts – firstly, that Mr Trump’s words are protected under the first amendment right to free speech; secondly, that plenty of other politicians (including Democrat grandee Chuck Schumer) have made similarly flammable comments; and thirdly that the whole thing remains a waste of time because Mr Trump is no longer in the White House (even though that constitutional objection was voted down two days ago).

Mr Trump is watching events from his home in Florida, while loyal supporters, such as Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, have all made clear their contempt for the whole process.

By the end of the weekend, we should know whether Mr Trump has survived his second impeachment, or whether American politics has opened another doorway to the unknown.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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