A preliminary vote in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday is being seen by pundits and the press as an indication that former president Donald Trump’s forthcoming second impeachment trial will end as the first one did, without a conviction.
Senators voted 55-44 to proceed with the trial of Trump’s “incitement of insurrection” for the January 6 storming of the Capitol that left one Capitol Police officer dead and many others on both sides injured.
As The New York Times’ Nichols Fandos explained, the Senate vote “narrowly killed a Republican effort to dismiss the [impeachment] proceedings as unconstitutional because Mr. Trump is no longer in office.”
Five Republicans joined with all 50 Senate Democrats to kill the Republican move. That number, however, is 12 votes shy of the 67 votes, two-thirds of the Senate, required to convict Trump. Trump’s first impeachment trial one year ago for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress ended without a conviction. He is the first president to be impeached twice.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the five Republicans to side with the Democrats, told Fandos: “I think it’s pretty obvious from the vote today that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the president will be convicted.”
Impeachment Cites Trump’s Role in Arousing Far-Right Followers to March to Capitol Hill
The one-count impeachment cites Trump’s role in arousing far-right followers to march to Capitol Hill on January 6 and storm the Capitol in a violent attempt to seek out lawmakers – including Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence – while the Senate was in the process of authenticating the November 4 presidential election as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Although Trump is no longer president, he retains a vise-like grip on the Republican Party. “The 10 House Republicans who broke with their party to support the impeachment charge are already facing an intense backlash, both at home and in Washington,” The Times noted.
“The vote also demonstrated the continued sway Trump holds over GOP officeholders, even after his exit from the White House under a historic cloud caused by his refusal to concede the November election and his unprecedented efforts to challenge the result,” The Washington Post reported.
Trump’s trial is not scheduled to begin until Tuesday, February 9, but senators were sworn in for the proceedings on January 26. They “immediately voted on an objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioning the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president.
“Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused here has already left office,” Paul argued, according to the Post. He added with a bit of hyperbole that the trial would “drag our great country down into the gutter of rancor and vitriol, the likes of which has never been seen in our nation’s history.”
Although President Biden has sought to let the impeachment proceedings play out without much comment from him, the new chief executive was criticized by Michael Goodwin, a New York Post political commentator.
“Apparently believing his first week in the White House has been flawless and the public will be extra patient with him, Joe Biden did a very foolish thing. He decided to ride the tiger of impeachment,” Goodwin wrote. He was referring to Biden’s comment that the impeachment trial “had to happen” and there would be “a worse effect if it didn’t happen.”
Goodwin added that Biden “doesn’t say what could be worse, but let’s take a guess: Democrats obsessed with getting revenge on Trump would get furious at Biden. That’s the only possible answer because only Democrats would revolt if Trump were not put in the dock.
“Chalk it up to another example of Biden having trouble with the transition from partisan candidate to president. You might remember his promise to work for all Americans, no matter how they voted, but he’s already forgotten it. His dozens of executive orders and pronouncements show he’s working only for left-wing Dems.”