Senate Democrats voted on Tuesday to proceed with impeachment, rejecting a Republican attempt to block their Trump trial. But even though they won the vote, it's actually good news for the former president.
That's because 45 senators just voted to declare the impeachment effort unconstitutional. In other words, there don't appear to be enough votes to actually impeach Trump when the trial begins the week of Feb. 8.
Democrats accuse former President Trump of “incitement of insurrection”. House Democrats quickly voted without holding any hearings to impeach Trump on a single article of impeachment in the aftermath of the January 6th Capitol Hill riot, racing the clock before he could leave office.
Now Senate Democrats are planning to hold a trial even though Trump is no longer president.
So Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul forced his fellow senators to go on the record by trying to get the trial tossed out of the Senate as unconstitutional.
A legitimate Senate impeachment vote of Trump would require the support of all Democrats plus 17 Republicans or two-thirds of the Senate. But Tuesday's vote indicates there clearly aren't 17 Republicans willing to go along with it.
“If more than 34 Republicans vote against the constitutionality of the proceeding, the whole thing’s dead on arrival,” Paul said shortly before the vote.
The Senate just voted on my constitutional point of order.
45 Senators agreed that this sham of a “trial” is unconstitutional.
That is more than will be needed to acquit and to eventually end this partisan impeachment process.
This “trial” is dead on arrival in the Senate.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 26, 2021
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said, "This is not a trial; this is political theater. You cannot remove someone from office who is already out of office. In this trial, there is no current President, no Chief Justice, and no possibility someone could be removed from office because they are not in any office. In a moment when our nation needs to unite, this trial will only create even deeper divisions."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said the whole idea of impeaching former presidents and officials opens a big can of worms. He asked, what's next, “Could we go back and try President Obama?”
Cornyn said the U.S. system has already worked and that Trump has been held accountable by the voters. “One way in our system you get punished is losing an election,” he said.
There may be another alternative for those senators who still want to punish Trump. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia are trying to get their fellow Senators to go along with a bipartisan resolution censuring Trump, according to Axios.
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