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February 10, 2021

Classroom Resource: Discuss the big questions of Trump’s second impeachment trial


Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. You can stop at the 5:28 mark after the summary of arguments in the Senate if time is limited. To read a transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: The United States Senate made history Tuesday, February 9 in prosecuting a past president for the first time. Defendant Donald Trump is also making history, as the first president to be tried twice.

  • Much of the argument on the first day of the Senate trial was about the constitutionality of an impeachment trial of President Trump after he’d already left office. Trump’s attorneys and supporters argued that impeachment was only meant as a device to remove the president for office, not try him after he’d already stepped down.
  • Democrats and others argued that the language and logic of the constitution clearly supports impeachment trials even after a president has left office. They argue a conviction would allow Congress to bar a dangerous president from holding federal office again. Democrats also argue that it would make no sense to allow presidents to commit crimes or violate their responsibilities in the final months or weeks of their terms without the consequences of impeachment.
  • Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives for inciting the attack on the Capitol on January 6. After impeachment in the House, the Senate holds a trial and votes on whether to convict or not. A 2/3rds majority is needed for conviction.


Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is arguing each side in Trump’s impeachment trial?
  • What is the reason Trump was impeached in the House?
  • Where and When is the impeachment trial taking place?
  • Why do Trump’s attorneys argue that convicting a former president in the Senate is unconstitutional?
  • How might a conviction affect Trump’s ability to run for president again?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. What do you think some of the consequences are of allowing former officials to be impeached? What do you think are some of the consequences of NOT allowing former officials to be impeached?
  2. What do you think are the most important safeguards against a president abusing presidential power?

Media literacy: If you could pass a question along to NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins to ask the Senators who are considering conviction, what would it be?

Additional resources: NewsHour EXTRA produced a number of lessons and stories about the attack on the Capitol on January 6 and its aftermath.

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