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For Trump and the Nation, a Final Test of Accountability

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Still, Mr. Trump might have a challenge finding lawyers to defend him in any trial. Jay Sekulow, who was a leader of the defense team in the impeachment trial last year, called the idea of a second impeachment a “gigantic mistake” by Democrats during a radio show, but has not participated in Mr. Trump’s legal efforts to overturn Mr. Biden’s election and did not respond to a message asking if he would represent the president again. Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel who teamed up with Mr. Sekulow, has been so upset about the Capitol attack that he has considered resigning.

One of the few members of his defense team who said he would stick with the president was Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School emeritus professor who had a secondary role last time. In an email on Saturday, he said he would defend Mr. Trump on free speech grounds.

“Trump’s speech, whatever one may think of it on the merits, is clearly protected by the First Amendment,” he said. “To impeach him for a constitutionally protected speech would violate both the first Amendment and the constitutional criteria for impeachment and would do enduring damage to the Constitution.”

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who testified in the House against Mr. Trump’s first impeachment, said the latest drive was a rush to judgment out of partisan anger. The fact that Mr. Trump’s critics have called for him to be removed either by impeachment or the 25th Amendment, he said, showed that they are interested only in the outcome, not the legitimacy of the method.

“This opportunistic use of impeachment would do to the Constitution what the rioters did to the Capitol: leave it in tatters,” Mr. Turley said. “The Democrats,” he added, “should not repeat one impulsive, destructive act in the Capitol with another in such an impeachment.”

The House voted almost entirely on party lines to impeach Mr. Trump in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with his effort to pressure Ukraine to incriminate Mr. Biden in wrongdoing while withholding vital security aid. But the Senate acquitted him last February also on a nearly party-line vote.

A second impeachment would in some ways revise how that first one looks in history. Some have argued that focusing on the Ukraine episode was too narrow given Mr. Trump’s many actions violating norms in Washington. Others have said it served as a warning that the president would use his power to cheat in an election, a forecast now borne out.

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