Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon arguing that impeaching former President Donald Trump is unconstitutional and merely a “partisan vendetta” spearheaded by “angry, unhinged” Democrats.
Taking his argument a step further than some of his Republican colleagues who are pinning their unconstitutionality argument on the fact that Trump is no longer president, Paul posited that Trump should not be impeached for inciting the Capitol mob because Democrats have supposedly exhibited similar behavior.
While Paul’s argument may be the most extreme, it’s just the latest entry in Republicans whitewashing Trump’s incitement of the Capitol insurrection and all of their own amplifying of the election fraud lies that led to it. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), in an illustrative example, said in an interview that aired Sunday that “everybody across this nation is to blame” for the Capitol attack.
Paul will force a vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial when the Senate reconvenes around 2:30 pm E.T. Paul has indicated to reporters that he expects more than a third of the Senate to vote that the trial is unconstitutional.
A few Republicans — usual suspects like Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — are on record vouching for the constitutionality of the trial. The vast majority of constitutional scholars from across the political spectrum agree with them, though Republicans have been eagerly amplifying the few who don’t. One of those, Jonathan Turley, was invited to join the Senate Republicans for lunch on Tuesday. Turley served as the Republicans’ sole witness during Trump’s previous impeachment.
In a floor speech stuffed with both-sideserism, Paul said it was a “credit” to the Republican Party that they haven’t called for the impeachment of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for supposedly radicalizing the man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Vice President Kamala Harris for offering to pay bail for Black Lives Matter protesters, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for telling his supporters to “get up in the face” of congresspeople and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for urging people to create a crowd around Trump administration members at restaurants.
“No Republican has sought to use the government to hold these Democrats responsible for Antifa and Black Lives Matter violence that has consumed our cities all summer,” Paul said. “Not one Republican said ‘let’s impeach the Democrats who are inciting this’ because it would be ridiculous.”
He also went after Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who will be presiding over the impeachment trial, as opposed to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, saying that no sense of fairness would allow a “partisan Democrat” to act as judge. A Senate source told TPM that senators preside when the person being impeached is not the current president.
Leahy preemptively addressed Paul’s criticism on Monday, telling reporters that no one in his “40-plus” years in the Senate would say he was “anything but impartial” when ruling on procedure.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) took the floor after Paul, giving voice to the other Republican tactic that GOP lawmakers are using to avoid doling out accountability for the insurrection: a call for unity.
“A trial of a former president is simply vindictive,” he said, waving away the constitutionality question as having “legitimate arguments” on both sides. “It is like opening up a wound and throwing salt in it.”