Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) characterized the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump as “dead on arrival” during an appearance on Fox News Primetime Tuesday after 45 senators voted against moving forward with the effort on the grounds that it is wholly unconstitutional, as Breitbart reported.
Senate Democrats still have enough votes to proceed with the trial, but it is now all but clear that they don’t have the 67 votes — including 17 from Republicans — needed to convict Trump.
“We put forward a motion that said that basically, you can’t impeach a private individual,” Paul explained Tuesday, according to Breitbart. “You can impeach a president, but this is why the chief justice didn’t show up. If it was the president, the chief justice shows up. The fact that the chief justice wouldn’t come and refused to come means that this is a private citizen, but the Constitution doesn’t allow for [the] impeachment of a private citizen.
“So we put this issue forward, but the most important takeaway from the issue is they don’t have the votes to convict. We have 45 people, 45 Republican senators say that the whole — the whole charade is unconstitutional,” the senator said. “The trial is dead on arrival.”
“A partisan game”
With his comments about the chief justice, Paul was referring to the appointment of Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) to preside over the trial, rather than John Roberts, the top judge on the Supreme Court who would have been required to preside if Trump were still president.
According to NPR, Leahy has pledged to be impartial in overseeing the proceedings in the upper chamber, even though he voted to convict Trump in the first impeachment trial held last year. (The then-president was ultimately acquitted, as the BBC notes.)
Notably, Leahy will get to both preside over the trial and vote as a juror, a process that normal for non-presidential impeachments, which this now is.
Paul, for his part, made it clear Tuesday that for Democrats, this impeachment effort is more about grandstanding and revenge than it is about holding Trump to account for supposed falsehoods about voter fraud in the election and “inciting” people to riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
“They will try to punish Republicans. But that’s all this has ever been about. Not justice. It’s about a partisan game, where they don’t want the election to be over,” Paul said, as Breitbart reported.
A look ahead
But just as the previous impeachment failed to make a solid case against Trump and led to more support for him in the end, this trial could be bad for Democrats if Trump’s lawyers are able to make a strong case that the charges against him are baseless.
In fact, scholars have argued that Trump’s actions don’t meet the legal standards for an incitement charge — and giving the now-former president a chance to defend himself would also give him a national platform to present his long-standing claims of voter fraud, which Dems have unequivocally dismissed.
It could all make for a very interesting month ahead.