Most senate republicans have voted in favour of an effort to dismiss Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign the former US president will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol.
Republican senator Rand Paul tabled a motion objecting to the trial on the grounds that the constitution of the United States does not provide for the impeachment of former presidents.
The democratic-led senate blocked the motion in a 55-45 vote. Only five republican legislators joined democrats to reject the move, far short of the 17 republicans who would need to vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege on the Capitol on January 6.
While the republicans did not succeed in ending the trial before it began, the test vote made clear that Trump still has enormous sway over his party as he becomes the first former president to be tried for impeachment in the US.
“It’s one of the few times in Washington where a loss is actually a victory, forty-five votes means the impeachment trial is dead on arrival, Paul said.
Democratic senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who moved to thwart Paul’s motion, dismissed the republican constitutional claim as flat-out wrong and said it would provide a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for presidents guilty of misconduct.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president, or any official, could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress impeachment powers and avoid a vote on disqualification by simply resigning, or by waiting to commit that offence until their last few weeks in office, Schumer said on the senate floor, Tuesday, 26 January.
Tuesday’s vote means the trial on Trump’s impeachment will begin as scheduled during the week of February 8. The House impeached Trump on January 13 on a single charge of ‘incitement of insurrection’ making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.
Some republican senators who backed Paul’s motion said their vote on Tuesday did not indicate how they might come down on Trump’s guilt or innocence after a trial.
Senate republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has said Trump “provoked” the riots and indicated he is open to conviction, voted with Paul to move toward dismissing the trial.
For Trump to be convicted, seventeen republicans would have to join the democrats to reach the two-thirds supermajority required.