The second impeachment of former President Donald Trump entered a new phase Tuesday with a vote on the constitutionality of a Senate trial aimed at a president who has left office. The team of House Democrats acting as prosecutors convincingly argued that the framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear that no public official, including the president, should be able to escape answering for his crimes merely by leaving his job.

Trump’s legal team, by contrast, proved to be the opposite of brilliant. From TV pundits and amused Democrats to Republican senators and even – maybe especially – Trump himself, the consensus was that the ex-president’s lawyers were meandering, unconvincing and inept.

Despite the coherence of the prosecutors and the clownishness of the defenders though, 44 of 50 GOP senators still voted to side with Trump’s lawyers. That was a clear indication that the ultimate Senate vote is almost certain to fall short of the two-thirds margin necessary to convict Trump and bar him from ever running for elected office again. This jury has already made up its mind.

Over the next few days, a compelling case against Trump will be presented. It will be argued that Trump’s outrageous lies and bogus lawsuits led his fervent supporters to believe the November presidential election was stolen. Then, Trump invited his revved up fans to a rally near the White House on the day that Congress was formally counting the electoral votes of each state. In a demagogic speech, he urged the crowd to march on the Capitol and intervene in the electoral count. The result was a violent invasion of the House and Senate chambers, the death of one policeman and serious injury to many other cops and the desecration of the temple of American democracy.

Trump incited insurrection against the government of the United States and, as evidenced by his final tweet from that horrible day, he reveled in the result. Are Republican senators sufficiently appalled and outraged at this traitorous act by a rogue president or are they more cowed by GOP voters who remain militantly devoted to the ex-president? The answer to that question will become clear when they say yes or no to convicting Trump.

Expect no surprises from this gang of sycophants and cowards.  

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