Washington, Jan 26 (efe-epa).- The great majority of Republican senators on Tuesday opposed pushing ahead with impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump, meaning that the effort to convict him of “incitement to insurrection” may fail in Congress.
In a vote on a procedural motion, only five GOP senators said they felt that impeaching Trump was constitutional, although Democrats voted unanimously to continue with the process to hold the ex-president accountable for inciting the mob that violently invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, an attack that left five people – including a police officer – dead.
Convicting Trump in an impeachment trial, which would have to begin in two weeks, would require the support of two-thirds of the senators or 67 upper house lawmakers.
Currently, the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with each party holding 50 seats.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lawmaker who presented the motion questioning the constitutionality of the proceedings, and he said after the vote that the impeachment “is dead on arrival.”
Paul said that Trump had already left office and thus impeaching him was unconstitutional, adding that moving forward with impeachment proceedings would only further divide the country and increase nationwide rancor and hostility between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats and many legal experts, however, say that failing to impeach and convict Trump would mean that a president conceivably could undertake criminal actions in office with impunity and such a precedent must not be set.
Earlier on Tuesday, the junior senator from Kentucky had said he thought enough GOP senators would vote “no” on whether impeachment was constitutional in this case, thus demonstrating that “there’s no chance they can impeach the president.”
“If 34 people support my resolution that this is an unconstitutional proceeding, it shows they don’t have the votes and we’re basically wasting our time,” Paul had said, adding that impeachment would be “dead on arrival” if he got more than 34 votes.
As it stood, Paul’s motion received 45 votes, with only Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey voting against Paul’s motion.
Despite the fact that Trump’s term ended last week on Jan. 20, convicting him in an impeachment trial would make him ineligible to hold public office in the future, thus presumably derailing any plans he might have to run for president again in 2024.
Paul said after the vote that he considered the result a great victory, adding that any prospective impeachment trial is now “over.”
The article of impeachment against Trump for “incitement to insurrection” – crafted by Democrats – was sent to the Senate on Monday.
If the trial is held, it will begin during the week of Feb. 8.
If all 50 Senate Democrats voted to convict Trump, 17 Republican senators would have to break ranks and vote in like manner to convict the former president, but the top Senate Republican – Mitch McConnell – voted against the constitutionality of impeaching Trump on Tuesday and this appeared to shut the door to a mass defection of GOP senators.
Republican Sen. John Thune, however, said that Tuesday’s vote was not binding and that the true stance of each individual lawmaker will be see during the course of the impeachment proceedings, which he suggested would move forward anyway, since the vote was only on the question of whether or not impeaching the now out-of-office Trump would be constitutional.
If the trial, in fact, proceeds, this will be the second impeachment proceeding against Trump, who was acquitted during the first such action in early 2020 for pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into the activities there of Trump’s main election rival, now-President Joe Biden.
The attack on the Capitol, after Trump egged on an enraged mob of his supporters at the White House, disrupted a session of Congress at which lawmakers were certifying Biden’s victory, which Trump has never acknowledged claiming – without providing any proof – that only massive election fraud by Democrats denied him reelection.