Despite widespread demands that the U.S. Senate hold former President Donald Trump accountable for helping to incite a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol just before leaving office, all but five Republican senators on Tuesday voted to invalidate the trial as unconstitutional—a move that ultimately failed but portends poorly for those hoping for conviction.
Just 10 House Republicans joined with Democrats earlier this month to impeach Trump—the only president to be impeached twice—for his role in sparking the January 6 attack on Congress. House impeachment managers delivered the article to the Senate on Monday.
While senators were sworn in on Tuesday for Trump's second impeachment trial, arguments aren't set to start until February 9.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday claimed that the trial is unconstitutional and forced a procedural vote on the matter. Paul's move "might seem like a silly procedural gambit, but it's important," reported Politico, because it forces GOP senators to go on record about whether they think the trial should be allowed to proceed.
Only Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.) joined with Democrats to oppose Paul's effort, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supported. The 55-45 vote signals that the necessary two-thirds of senators do not support a conviction.
The Senate vote was swiftly condemned, including by House Democrats who supported Trump's impeachment:
As MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted: "McConnell delayed the trial and then voted in favor of a point or order to dismiss it because it was...starting too late."
Despite the timing of the House impeachment vote, McConnell, while he was still Senate majority leader in the immediate wake of the attack, refused to start a trial before President Joe Biden's inauguration.
Ahead of the Tuesday vote, Paul told reporters: "I think there will be enough support on it to show there's no chance they can impeach the president... If 34 people support my resolution that this is an unconstitutional proceeding, it shows they don't have the votes and we're basically wasting our time."
Paul tried to claim that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded by pointing to Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution, which allows for the "removal of office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office honor."
"If the framers intended impeachment to merely be a vehicle to remove sitting officials from their office they would not have included that additional provision, disqualification from future office," he said.
"The language is crystal clear without any ambiguity," Schumer said. "The history and precedent is clear. The Senate has the power to try former officials, and the reasons for that are basic common sense."
Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday that polls continue to show that the American public supports convicting Trump and barring him from ever holding office again. A survey conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from January 21 to January 24 found 56% of Americans approve of the House impeaching Trump.
That polling results also showed that 52% of the U.S. public wants the Senate to convict Trump on the impeachment charge. Additionally, when those surveyed were told that a conviction must precede a ban on Trump holding office in the future, support for the Senate convicting the ex-president jumped from 52% to 55%.
As the advocacy group Stand Up America put it in a tweet Tuesday: "Convicting Donald Trump for inciting a white supremacist insurrection against the government of the United States should be a given."