Weeks after a riot at the U.S. Capitol lifted hopes among Democrats of banishing Donald Trump from political life forever, the former president is poised to come out on top.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reiterated to Fox News on Wednesday that his party is “very united” against what he called an “unconstitutional” push to convict Trump on an impeachment charge as a private citizen.
“A post-presidential impeachment”
Graham was repeating what has been obvious for some days since 45 Republican senators moved to dismiss the trial, agreeing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that it’s unconstitutional to impeach a former president.
“I think the Republican Party is going to be very united around the idea that impeaching a president who lives in Florida, who’s out of office, is unconstitutional,” Graham told Fox’s America Reports on Wednesday.
Democrats insist that Trump must be barred from seeking office ever again, claiming in a legal brief that Trump is “singularly responsible” for a riot at the Capitol in January, Fox notes. But with 17 Republican votes necessary for his conviction, he is almost certainly in the clear.
Graham also pointed out Wednesday the abnormality of the process, noting that Chief Justice John Roberts will be absent, and warned that it would set a bad precedent.
“Nobody, I think, ever envisioned a post-presidential impeachment. It will open up Pandora’s Box for the presidency,” the senator said, according to Fox. “I think they’ll be close to 47 or 48 votes for the idea that this is an unconstitutional exercise, but not enough to stop the case.”
Trump foes out of luck
Trump’s lawyers plan to argue that the trial is moot, since he’s no longer in office, and they assert that Trump had a First Amendment right to have questioned the election as “suspect,” anyway.
They liken a Senate conviction to a bill of attainder, which is barred by the Constitution.
Democrats are taking a far different and longitudinal view: Trump, and essentially anyone who ever disputed Joe Biden’s victory, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), played a role in an “insurrection” and must be punished, in their eyes.
According to Trump’s lawyers, Trump “denies” that it was false for him to claim that the election was fraudulent. But his lawyers don’t plan to rehash the election at the trial, and Republican senators including Graham are also said to be cool to any notion of discussing the election.
The trial, which begins Tuesday, seems likely to play out as a predictable political spectacle, much like Trump’s first impeachment, which ended with his vindication last February, as NPR reported.