Senate Republicans on Sunday rehashed a new GOP line arguing that impeaching former President Donald Trump is unconstitutional now that he has left office — a disputed legal argument that constitutional scholars have dismissed.
The growing number of Senate Republicans throwing cold water onto Trump’s impeachment trial after the House voted to impeach the former president for “incitement of insurrection” earlier this month comes on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) announcement that the second Trump impeachment trial will begin the week of Feb. 8.
House Democrats are set to walk the impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate on Monday evening in hopes of convicting Trump as well as a separate vote to bar Trump from holding office again.
On Sunday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) — who was the only Senate Republican to join Democrats in trying to remove the president from office last year — notably broke from his fellow Senate Republicans’ new line opposing Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial. Appearing on CNN, Romney argued that it’s “pretty clear” that Trump’s “incitement to insurrection is an impeachable offense” and therefore the Senate impeachment trial is constitutional.
Here’s how Senate Republicans expressed their opposition to Trump’s second impeachment trial on Sunday:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
In an interview “Fox News Sunday,” Rubio called the upcoming Senate impeachment trial “stupid” even though Trump “bears responsibility for some of what happened,” referring to the deadly insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month that Trump incited.
“Well, first of all, I think the trial is stupid. It’s counterproductive,” Rubio said. “We already have a flaming fire in this country, and it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire. The first chance I get to vote to end this trial I’ll do it.””
Rubio then deployed the GOP’s laughable calls for unity — which came after they egged on Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud leading up to the Capitol riots — as he pointed to then-President Ford’s pardoning of former President Nixon after his resignation. Rubio said Ford’s pardoning of Nixon was “in hindsight important” for “moving the country forward.”
“And history held Richard Nixon quite accountable for what he did as a result,” Rubio said, before going onto say that Trump “bears responsibility for some of what happened.”
“It was most certainly a foreseeable consequence of everything that was going on. All I’m arguing is we have some really important things to work on,” Rubio said. “We’re going to jump right back into what we’ve been going through for the last five years, and stirring it up again with a trial, and it’s just going to be bad for the country.”
Rubio added that it was “arrogant” for Democrats to pursue a Senate conviction in an effort to ban Trump from running for public office again.
“I think that’s an arrogant statement for anyone to make. Voters get to decide that,” Rubio said. “Who are we to tell voters who they can vote for in the future?”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Rounds argued on “Meet the Press” that the Senate impeachment trial is a “moot point” because Trump is no longer the President.
“I know that there are other people out there that may disagree with me, but Article One sections, I think it’s three or six and seven, specifically pointed out that you can impeach the president, and it does not indicate that you can impeach someone who is not in office,” Rounds said. “So I think it’s a moot point, and I think it’s one that they would have a very difficult time in trying to get done within the Senate.”
Rounds argued that the Senate has other priorities that should be worked on instead, which include confirming Biden’s Cabinet nominees.
“If we start working on an impeachment, which it looks like we’re going to end up doing, we’ve only got a couple of weeks here in which to actually work through and allow this president an opportunity to form a Cabinet,” Rounds said. “A lot of us would prefer to maybe work through those issues instead.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
During an interview on Fox News, Cotton reiterated his stance a week after the Capitol riots, when he said that the Senate lacked the constitutional authority to convict Trump after he had left office.
“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said. “That’s not the role of impeachment. Impeachment is designed to remove a current office holder from office.”
Cotton said that more he talks to other Republican senators, “the more they’re beginning to line up behind the position I’m asked a couple weeks ago.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Hours after Paul vehemently refused to say that the election was not stolen during an interview on ABC News on Sunday morning, The Hill published an op-ed by the Kentucky Republican titled “Boycott sham impeachment” that called for the dismissal of the Senate impeachment trial before it even begins.
“Whatever this exercise is that the Democrats began and insist on continuing, it’s not impeachment. How do we know that for sure? Look closely. The Constitution says two things about impeachment — it is a tool to remove the office holder, and it must be presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court,” Paul wrote. “Neither one of those things will happen. President Trump is gone, and Justice John Roberts, properly noticing the absence of an office holder being impeached, is declining to preside. That settles it for me.”