One Thing Biden and His Staff Refuse to Discuss: Trump’s Impeachment Trial

WASHINGTON — For weeks, President Biden and his aides have tried to frame the second impeachment of his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, as a distraction from his efforts to fulfill the promises he made to the American people.

“I’m focused on my job,” the president told reporters on Thursday, “to deal with the promises I made. And we all know we have to move on.”

That focus, he said, meant that he had not watched the gruesome retelling of events on Jan. 6 that the Democratic House impeachment managers had shown in a series of stunning video clips on Wednesday because he had been “going straight through last night, until a little after 9.”

Mr. Biden did concede that “my guess is some minds may be changed” as a result of the trial. But his press secretary, Jen Psaki, said later that “he was not intending to give a projection or prediction.”

Despite the emotional and harrowing scenes that Democratic lawmakers hope will define Mr. Trump’s legacy, even if he is not convicted, White House officials have refused to engage in anything even tangentially related to the trial and have insisted they spend no time thinking or talking about the former president who relentlessly attacked Mr. Biden.

Worried that impeachment would distract from the Biden agenda and further divide the country, Ms. Psaki has painstakingly avoided even yes-or-no questions about whether the president believes the trial is constitutional. “We’re not going to weigh in on every question about the impeachment trial, and we don’t feel it’s necessary or our role to do that,” she said when pressed this week.

The Trump Impeachment ›

What You Need to Know

    • A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
    • The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
    • To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
    • A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
    • If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
    • If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.

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