Schumer vows to move forward with Trump impeachment trial

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Washington — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted on Wednesday that the Senate will push forward with an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, despite a procedural vote on Tuesday that indicated the Senate lacks the votes needed to convict the former president.

The Senate on Tuesday voted to table a point of order by Republican Senator Rand Paul to dismiss the trial on the ground that holding an impeachment trial against a president who is no longer in office is unconstitutional. Only five Republicans voted to table the motion, while 45 Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — voted in support of dismissing the trial. Since 67 votes are required to convict a president, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Trump will be convicted after the impeachment trial, which will begin on February 9.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Schumer called the vote by 45 Republicans to dismiss the trial “deeply irresponsible.”

“Only five Republican senators were willing to take a principled stand against this reckless and ill-advised effort by members of this body who are eager to excuse President Trump’s campaign to overturn the election and apparently to excuse his incitement of the mob that every one of us experienced in this Capitol,” Schumer said. “I would simply say to all of my colleagues, make no mistake, there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again.”

The House impeached Mr. Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection on January 13, the week after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in a deadly assault seeking to overturn the election. Mr. Trump refused to concede the election for months, falsely claimed that the election was rigged and urged his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the election results just hours before the attack on the Capitol. 

“No one will be able to avert their gaze from what Mr. Trump said and did and the consequences of his actions. We will all watch what happened. We will listen to what happened. And then we will vote. We will pass judgment as our solemn duty under the Constitution demands,” Schumer continued.

However, many senators, including several Democrats, have acknowledged that the effort to convict Mr. Trump is unlikely to succeed.

“I’m not sure yesterday is a complete proxy vote for conviction. It’s probably true that it’s an uphill battle to get to 17 Republican votes,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told reporters on Wednesday. Several Republicans who voted to dismiss the trial said their vote is not necessarily indicative of how they plan to vote on conviction.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Senator Susan Collins have pitched their colleagues on supporting a censure resolution against Mr. Trump.

“The vote on the Paul motion yesterday was completely clarifying that we’re not going to get near 67 [votes],” Kaine told reporters on Wednesday. “To do a trial knowing you’ll get 55 votes at the max seems to me to be not the right prioritization of our time. Obviously we do a trial, maybe we can do it fast, but my top priority is COVID relief and getting the Biden cabinet approved.”

Collins told reporters on Tuesday that it was “pretty obvious” how the trial would play out given the vote on Paul’s point of order.

“I think it’s pretty obvious from the vote today, that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the president will be convicted. Just do the math,” Collins said.

Censuring the president may be able to get more support from Republicans, but it would not have any practical consequences. Congress may also consider using Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to bar Mr. Trump from holding office again. 

That provision states that “no person shall be a senator or representative in Congress” or “hold any office, civil or military” if they, after having taken an oath to support the Constitution, “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Legal scholars say Congress could establish a process for federal courts to adjudicate whether candidates are ineligible for office under Section 3.

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