WASHINGTON: Here we go again.
The defendant in the coming week’s impeachment trial — Donald Trump — remains the same, but several leading figures in the Senate proceedings have changed from the previous effort to oust the now-former president.
So, too, have the charges. Trump was impeached in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but he is being tried now for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last month’s deadly riot at the US Capitol.
Here is a look at some of the people expected to play key roles in the must-see televised event.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has assigned a diverse group of nine impeachment managers to the case — all Democratic House members, all lawyers, and all different from the seven who managed Trump’s 2020 trial.
They are led by Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar who started drafting the impeachment article shortly after the insurrectionist mob stormed the Capitol on January 6.
The 58-year-old Marylander takes on the biggest case of his career as he mourns his son Tommy, who committed suicide on New Year’s Eve.
“I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021,” Raskin told CNN last month.
Another standout manager is Stacey Plaskett, 54, a Black mother of five from the US Virgin Islands.
As a delegate from a US territory, Plaskett does not have House floor-voting privileges and therefore could not vote for Trump’s impeachment. But she has expressed humility at being chosen to help prosecute the case against the president, whom she said “attempted a coup d’etat.”
The 100 US senators will not just be jurors in Trump’s trial; they were witnesses and victims at the crime scene as rioters stalked lawmakers in the Capitol.
Still, Trump loyalists are many, including 41-year-old conservative Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential presidential aspirant, and Senator Ted Cruz, a onetime constitutional lawyer from Texas, who are already giving full-throated defenses of Trump.
They were among a handful of senators who voted against certifying the election results in specific states, even after the riot, and are now raising the alarm about what Cruz has called a “vindictive” effort to convict a president who is already out of office.
Also in this group is Senator Rand Paul, who accused Democrats of being “deranged by their hatred” of Trump.
Last week Paul, 58 and a former ophthalmologist, forced a vote on scuppering the trial on grounds it is unconstitutional. The effort failed, but in a telling result, only five Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to proceed.
With conviction requiring two-thirds of the Senate, 17 Republicans would have to defect and join all Democrats in order to find Trump guilty.
They are unlikely to reach that threshold, but Senator Mitt Romney voted for conviction one year ago, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is on record saying Trump “committed impeachable offenses” by inciting the riot.
The question is, can they win over skeptics? Moderates Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins are on the fence, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who maintains vast influence over his caucus — has privately said he is considering voting to convict.
The US Supreme Court‘s chief justice is constitutionally empowered to preside over a court of impeachment trying a sitting president. But because Trump is out of office, Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided in 2020, bowed out.
That leaves 80-year-old Senator Patrick Leahy, who as the majority party’s longest-serving member is president pro tempore of the Senate, to assume the role.
It’s a tricky spot for a staunchly liberal lawmaker who is also serving as a juror, and who is facing concerns about his health. He felt unwell and was briefly hospitalized just hours after he was sworn in as the presiding officer on January 26.
Leahy is a mild-mannered Batman obsessive who has had several cameo appearances in the caped crusader’s movies, and is an avid amateur photographer.
Trump took a dig at him during a 2018 rally when he made impromptu claims about the veteran Democrat drinking. Leahy swatted away the comments as “bogus baloney” and said he had no idea why Trump thought he was a drinker.