Here's the Latest Republican to Break Ranks Regarding the Constitutionality of Trump Impeachment Trial

Posted: Feb 09, 2021 5:11 PM
Here's the Latest Republican to Break Ranks Regarding the Constitutionality of Trump Impeachment Trial

Source: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Day one of the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump has ended. Both sides presented their arguments for why this silly ploy is constitutional or not. Both sides will be given four hours to make their points. It didn’t take nearly that long. It formally kicked off at 1 PM and it concluded a little after 5 PM. The final vote on the constitutionality of this trial merely requires a simple majority, which was a forgone conclusion. In a 56-44 vote, the US Senate said it was constitutional to proceed. The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 12 PM to start oral arguments (via Fox News):

Trump's legal team said the trial is unconstitutional because he's no longer in office and can't face removal, which is the standard judgment of an impeachment conviction. 

"President Trump is no longer in office. The object of the Constitution has been achieved. He has been removed by the voters," Bruce Castor, a Trump attorney, said. 

Another Trump lawyer David Schoen said impeachment is moot.

"Presidents are impeachable because they are removable," Schoen said. "Former presidents are not because they cannot be removed."

House Democrats made the case that not only is there precedent for proceeding with impeachment for a federal official who is out of office, but it's the right thing to do to hold presidents accountable. 

They pointed to the 1876 corruption case of William Belknap, President Ulysses Grant's war secretary, who was impeached and tried by the Senate after leaving office.

The usual Republican squishes defected, of course. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) all joined Democrats in this motion. There was another defection as well: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

“I’m trying to digest facts. And I thought the arguments they gave were strong arguments,” he said. 

Is it significant? Some journalists said so, but it’s not. NBC News’ Garrett Haake wrote, “this vote is a major blow for the managers. They didn’t flip retiring members like Portman and Burr, they didn’t flip GOP leadership... a conviction now extraordinarily unlikely.”

And we knew this from the start. The votes were there to have an impeachment trial, but not enough for a conviction. Impeachment has become just another political tool that can be whipped out and used against people with whom you despise. That’s the new precedent Democrats have set. In the meantime, COVID relief remains in limbo, divisions have deepened, and Trump’s mantra of ‘all talk, no action’ was on full display here. Nothing will come of this—nothing. And Congress’ fetish with focusing on the theatrics that does next to nothing to help the American people is why populism is rising. It’s why our institutions are viewed as a joke. It’s why Congress sucks. These people aren’t doing their jobs and like public-sector unions or tenured professors, they remain in this swamp. This town is killing the country—and this impeachment circus is just another chapter in the annals of the political class’ increasing indifference towards the people who sent them there.