Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans Rally around Trump as Impeachment Trial Approaches

Sen. Rand Paul speaks during a confirmation hearing for Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 3, 2021. (Susan Walsh/Reuters)

Senate Republicans are rallying around former president Trump ahead of his second impeachment trial, which is set to kick off Tuesday in the upper chamber.

Several Senate Republicans expressed their support for the embattled former president on Sunday, casting the impeachment trial as an unconstitutional waste of time.

“It is a farce, it is unconstitutional. But more than anything it’s unwise, and going to divide the country,” Republican Senator Rand Paul said.

“If we’re going to criminalize speech, and somehow impeach everybody who says, ‘Go fight to hear your voices heard,’ I mean really we ought to impeach Chuck Schumer then,” Paul said. “He went to the Supreme Court, stood in front of the Supreme Court and said specifically, ‘Hey Gorsuch, Hey Kavanaugh, you’ve unleashed a whirlwind. And you’re going to pay the price.’”

Last year, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that they will “pay the price” if they take a position he disagrees with in deciding a case that dealt with abortion.

Late last month, Paul forced a point of order vote on holding an impeachment trial, arguing the Senate should not take up the House’s single impeachment article against Trump because he has already left office. The motion failed in a 55-45 vote, but only five Republicans defected.

“If you voted that it was unconstitutional, how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?” Paul told reporters after the vote. “This vote indicates it’s over. The trial is all over.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) called the impeachment trial a “meaningless messaging partisan exercise.”

“If being held accountable means being impeached by the House and being convicted by the Senate, the answer to that is no,” said Wicker.

Asked whether lawmakers could consider punishing Trump in a lesser way such as censuring him instead, Wicker responded, “That ship has sailed.”

The House voted largely along party lines last month in favor of impeaching Trump for “incitement of insurrection” over his rhetoric before and during the uprising at the Capitol last week, when Trump supporters forced their way past security and into the halls of Congress. The violence at the Capitol on January 6 ended with five dead, including one capitol hill police officer.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle condemned Trump’s rhetoric at a speech to supporters in front of the White House earlier in the day, but since then, Senate Republicans in large part have indicated they are ready to move on.

“It’s not a question of how the trial ends, it’s a question of when it ends,” GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said. “Republicans are going to view this as an unconstitutional exercise, and the only question is, will they call witnesses, how long does the trial take? But the outcome is really not in doubt.”

Even Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who voted against Paul’s measure objecting to holding an impeachment trial and has said he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses, admitted a conviction was unlikely.

“You did have 45 Republican senators vote to suggest that they didn’t think it was appropriate to conduct a trial, so you can infer how likely it is that those folks will vote to convict,” Toomey said.

A conviction could bar Trump from ever running for office again.

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