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Trump impeachment in 13 days, but already marked by early drama. Here's the update

Knocking back a vote led by Sen. Rand Paul on whether the trial is "unconstitutional," the Senate will reconvene in February for former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Here's what's happening, what's at stake and what could take place during the trial.

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Donald Trump

The House impeached Trump again -- here's what that means.

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The impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is less than two weeks away, but it's already the stuff of TV drama. Impeachment trials are rare enough to be historical moments all their own, but Trump's trial -- like the polarizing former president himself -- has already shaken up ordinarily rote proceedings. Moments after senators were sworn in to serve as the jury on Monday, 45 Republicans, led by Sen. Rand Paul, moved to declare the Feb 9 trial of a former president "unconstitutional." Later that night, the presider for the trial, the new Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Patrick Leahy, 80, was briefly hospitalized for several hours after "tests."

While Leahy is set to carry out his duties, the hospitalization, along with Paul's unexpected motion (which lost by a 55-45 vote), underscore the unusual nature of Trump's impeachment trial -- both in terms of the timing and against the broader backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A the heart of the motion to rule the impeachment trial unconstitutional is Trump's current status as a private citizen, not a sitting president. The timing of the Senate trial -- taking place after Trump has left office -- is a historic first. He is also the first president to be twice impeached. The House of Representatives, voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 13, while he was still in office. 

While Paul's motion failed and the trial will proceed, the overwhelming Republican backing is seen as an early demonstration of GOP loyalty to the former president. Just five Republicans voted against the motion -- but around 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor to convict Trump, leading Paul to call the trial "dead on arrival."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who previously said he believed Trump committed "impeachable offenses," voted with Paul, despite earlier assertions that "the mob was fed lies" and was "provoked by the president."

There's nothing "unconstitutional" about impeaching a former official, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, as reported by CNN and other outlets. "It has been completely debunked by constitutional scholars from all across the political spectrum."

Republican Sen. John Thune, who voted with the GOP block, offered opinion, saying he doesn't think the vote against the impeachment "binds anybody once the trial starts." 

Trump will stand trial beginning Feb. 9, where he faces a single impeachment article for incitement of insurrection, regarding his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol

The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming President Joe Biden's win in the Electoral College. Biden was confirmed after the riot and was later inaugurated, on Jan. 20. In a history-making moment, 10 House Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of impeachment. 

We'll explain what we know about how the impeachment trial could progress, what it takes to convict or acquit, what's at stake and where the situation stands now. This story has been updated with new information.

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Schedule of Trump's impeachment trial

The trial is scheduled to unfold as follows:

  • Jan. 25: Article of impeachment presented to Senate
  • Jan. 26: Senators sworn in, summons for Trump issued
  • Feb. 2: Trump's answer to article of impeachment due
  • Feb. 8: Trump's pretrial brief due
  • Feb. 9: House's pretrial rebuttal brief due; trial begins.

What would happen if Trump is convicted or acquitted?

If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote to bar him from running again (Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would prevent a possible Trump presidential run in 2024. This vote would only require a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if required.

Trump could also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents by the Post Presidents Act, including a Secret Service security detail, pension and yearly travel allowance.

According to the US Constitution, impeached presidents also can't be pardoned.

If acquitted, Trump would have access to all the benefits of a former US president, including the option to run for public office.

What will happen during Trump's impeachment trial?

The US Constitution lays out clear guidelines for impeaching a sitting president and other officers for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors." However, Trump's trial is an unusual case. With his second impeachment, Trump, who as of Jan. 20 is a private citizen, is the first president to be impeached twice and the first to be tried after leaving office.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice would normally preside over the impeachment trial of a president. But because it's not a trial of a sitting president, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will not preside over this impeachment trial -- instead, it will be the new Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Patrick Leahy who, as a senator, is also still expected to be able to vote in the trial, too.

The House will prosecute the case, and the Senate will sit as jury and ultimately vote to convict or acquit. 

To convict Trump, 67 senators -- or two-third of the Senate -- must vote in favor. Following Biden's inauguration, the Senate is now made up of 48 Democrats, two independents who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans, for an even 50-50 split.

Why was Trump impeached before?

Yes. Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House. However, the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020.

His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The issue was Trump's dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden's son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.

CNET's Jessica Dolcourt contributed to this report.