A Republican Senator says Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is “dead on arrival” after nearly all of his colleagues backed dismissing the case on Tuesday.
In the clearest sign yet the former President will not be convicted when his trial begins on February 8, the Senate voted 55-45 to reject a motion from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul stating that the process is unconstitutional.
While the point of order was voted down, it appears to confirm Democrats will struggle to reach the 67 votes they would need to convict the former President.
Only five Republicans voted against Mr Paul’s push to throw out the case before the trial begins – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Seventeen Republicans would ultimately need to join with the Democrats to achieve a conviction – something President Joe Biden has already indicated he does not think that will happen.
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“The Senate just voted on my constitutional point of order,” Mr Paul tweeted.
“Forty-five 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.”
The House of Representatives presented a single article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday accusing Mr Trump of inciting the storming of the Capitol earlier this month, setting in motion the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.
One of the key legal debates currently being waged is whether the impeachment clause of the Constitution, which is a mechanism to remove public officials from office, can apply once they have already left and are private citizens.
If Mr Trump were convicted, the Senate could then vote on whether to bar him from ever holding public office again.
Mr Biden told CNN this week that the trial “has to happen” but he doubted 17 Republicans would vote to convict Mr Trump.
“The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn’t changed that much,” Mr Biden said.
According to a New York Times survey of Republican Senators, as of Monday none had so far indicated they would vote to convict – 27 expressed opposition, 16 were undecided and seven had no response.
The Times noted that most of those opposed were falling back on process-related objections rather than defending Mr Trump.
“Why are we doing this?” said Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said, according to the Times. “I can’t think of something more divisive and unhealing than doing an impeachment trial when the president is already gone. It’s just vindictive. It’s ridiculous.”
On Sunday, Senator Paul got in a fiery clash with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, where he refused repeatedly to accept that the election was “not stolen”.
“Can’t you just say the words, this election was not stolen?” Stephanopoulos pressed at one point.
Mr Paul replied, “What I would suggest is that if we want greater confidence in our elections, and 75 per cent of Republicans agree with me, is that we do need to look at election integrity and we need to see if we can restore confidence in the elections.”