In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington. Credit: John Minchillo / AP

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As a second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump begins on Tuesday, there are several things to keep in mind.

One of the most important is that Trump was impeached by the House on Jan. 13, while he was still president. This wasn’t a Congress looking back in time and impeaching a former president for actions years in the past.

This is crucial because many opponents of Trump’s impeachment, and his defense lawyers, suggest that it opens the door to impeaching former presidents who have long been out of office. That is not the case.

In fact, one of the legal scholars quoted extensively in the Trump defense team’s legal brief to support the notion that a former president can’t be impeached, said the 78-page memo from Trump’s lawyers misrepresents what he wrote in a 2001 law review article. That article, by Michigan State University constitutional law professor Brian Kalt, concluded that there was precedent for continuing the impeachment process even after a president had left office.

“The point is the timing of the conduct, not the timing of the legal proceeding,” Kalt told NPR.

Because of the short amount of time left in Trump’s term after the events of Jan. 6 and the impeachment vote a week later, the Senate was unable to hold a trial until after Trump left office. If this is the reason not to proceed with a trial, it would send the message to future presidents that, if they commit offenses late enough in their term, there will be no consequences.

That should be untenable to any U.S. senator.

“If we dismiss this action based on a lack of jurisdiction, we would create a precedent under which a future president could avoid disqualification simply by waiting for the closing days of his term to engage in misconduct,” Sen. Susan Collins said after a Jan. 26 vote to proceed with the Senate impeachment trial. Collins was one of only five Republican senators to vote to proceed.

Trump’s impeachment defense team also argues that the House process was too rushed and didn’t involve a detailed investigation. There wasn’t much to investigate since most of the evidence, including extensive videos of the Capitol attack, was in the public record and available for all to see.

Even before the Nov. 3 presidential election, Trump and his team laid out a game plan to undercut the results should he lose the election to Democrat Joe Biden, which he ultimately did.

He made it clear that if early returns, which were more likely to be from in-person voters, showed he was ahead, he would declare victory. This would thus cast doubt as absentee ballots, which were most often used by Democratic voters, were counted and the vote totals then showed Biden in the lead. This is precisely what happened in several swing states and how the Trump campaign reacted to those changes.

Weeks after the election, Trump continued to question how he could be “winning” on election night while the final vote tallies showed him losing. His team launched claims of ballot dumping and faulty voting machines. Instead, when absentee ballots were tallied — which in many states can’t happen until after the polls have closed — those ballots heavily favored Biden, which changed the overall tally. Nothing nefarious, just how the vote counting process works.

However, Trump relied on this confusion to perpetuate this and other false narratives to claim that the November election was stolen from him.

He and his campaign also pressured election officials and filed dozens of lawsuits to stop them from certifying their election results. Even after Georgia, one of six battleground states that had voted for Trump in 2016 but swung to Biden in 2020, certified its election results, Trump asked the secretary of state to further analyze the state’s ballots and “to find 11,780 votes.” Georgia’s final vote tally had him losing to Biden by 11,779 votes.

So, when on Jan. 6 Trump spoke for more than an hour to his supporters gathered outside the White House and told them that the day’s work in Congress was the last chance to stop the “steal” and that they should head to the Capitol, it was not a surprise that some took him literally.

Some who breached the Capitol said they were looking for then-Vice President Mike Pence to hang him. Others targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When, hours after the assault on the Capitol began, Trump finally told the attackers to go home, his words were too soft and too late.

Another claim in Trump’s defense is that his words on Jan. 6 are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. As we’ve written many times recently, the amendment prevents the government from hindering free speech. It says nothing about there being no consequences for that speech.

Trump, like others who have claimed the First Amendment defense in recent weeks, is now facing the consequences for his speech and actions.

Members of the U.S. Senate have a fairly straightforward question before them: Did the then-president incite the attempted insurrection at the Capitol? To answer this question, they need simply to review the president’s words and actions regarding the Nov. 3 election and to consider his — and the would-be insurrectionists’ — words and actions on Jan. 6.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...