On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) attempted to introduce a motion to the Senate to declare the upcoming impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump unconstitutional. The resolution was shot down by the Senate, 55-45. Five Republicans voted to table the resolution.
The vote, ahead of the impeachment trial that’s scheduled to start next month, may be viewed as a precursor of how Senate Republicans may be expected to vote on the impeachment. The 55 votes to table Paul’s resolution fall far short of the 67 votes that will be necessary to convict Trump in the impeachment trial, so it is an early signal that acquittal may be coming.
Republican Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) all voted to table the resolution. Some Republicans who sided with Paul in voting to declare it unconstitutional said that it was a sign that Trump would be acquitted. Others, however, said that they voted for Paul’s resolution because they believed it merited discussion and that their vote was not indicative of how they will vote on impeachment.
Many legal experts dispute Paul’s claim that the impeachment is unconstitutional. The Constitution states that a former president can be impeached and convicted as it opens up the potential for the person to be barred from seeking office in the future.
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According to a tracker set up by The Washington Post, however, 36 GOP senators have said that they oppose Trump’s impeachment. If all of these senators vote to acquit Trump — even if all 64 others vote to convict him — then Trump will, once again, be impeached but not convicted.
Other impeachment activities proceeded as normal on Tuesday. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who will be presiding over the trial, was sworn in for his role. Leahy then swore in the Senate jurors who will be helping to moderate the trial, and they signed an oath to be impartial.
As president pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential succession line and is the default neutral choice for a modern impeachment proceeding for someone who is no longer president. Leahy is a Democrat and has a record of disagreeing with Trump — and voted to convict him during Trump’s first impeachment — but he has vowed to stay neutral for the impeachment proceedings. “I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws,” he said in a press release.
“I have presided over hundreds of hours in my time in the Senate. I don’t think anybody has ever suggested I was anything but impartial in those hundreds of hours,” he told reporters. “I’m not presenting the evidence. I am making sure that procedures are followed.”
Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump’s first impeachment trial but expressed a desire to not do so this time around. Impeachment proceedings say that the Senate could have asked Vice President Kamala Harris to preside, but that would likely have been viewed as too partisan a choice.
Nine impeachment managers from the House have been chosen by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and will present the case to the Senate. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) will serve as the lead. The others are David Cicilline (R-Rhode Island), Eric Swalwell (D-California), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Ted Lieu (D-California), Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), Madeleine Dean (D-Pennsylvania), Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) and Diana DeGette (D-Colorado). All nine of Pelosi’s chosen managers have law degrees.
Earlier this month, the House voted to impeach President Trump during his final days in office for his role in inciting the violent attempted coup at the Capitol building on January 6. That article of impeachment was delivered from the House to the Senate on Monday, which typically triggers the trial to begin immediately, but members from both parties agreed to push the trial back to February 8.