A motion has been voted in the US Senate that declares a second impeachment unconstitutional. A large majority of Republicans have sided with the former president.
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The hopes of the US Democrats for a conviction of former President Donald Trump in the impeachment process have suffered a significant damper. In a vote on Tuesday, 45 of the 50 Republican senators supported a motion to declare the process unconstitutional for storming the Capitol. That makes it appear increasingly unrealistic that the two-thirds majority necessary to convict Trump will come about in the Congress Chamber.
The House of Representatives had brought charges against Trump for incitement to riot in the Senate on Monday evening. On Tuesday the senators were sworn in as jurors for the impeachment process. Acting Senate Chairman Patrick Leahy took the 100 MPs’ oath to “practice impartially justice in accordance with the constitution and the law”.
Immediately afterwards, Republican Senator Rand Paul filed a motion to declare the process unconstitutional. Paul argued that the Senate could only try an incumbent president. Trump was a “private person” after leaving the White House last Wednesday. The Democrats – and most constitutional lawyers – disagree with this view.
Condemnation of Trump could still come about
Paul’s motion was rejected with 55 to 45 votes. However, the Republicans supported it with a large majority. Only five Republicans – and all 50 Democrats – voted against the motion.
“45 senators have agreed that this fraudulent ‘process’ is unconstitutional,” wrote Paul afterwards on the short message service Twitter. “That’s more than we will need to acquit (Trump) and end this partisan impeachment process. This ‘process’ is dead when it arrives in the Senate.”
The outcome of the vote does not mean that a two-thirds majority for a condemnation of Trump could not be achieved. However, this is not considered very likely. Should the 50 Democratic senators vote unanimously to condemn Trump, they would have to be joined by at least 17 Republicans.
Trump still enjoys a lot of support from the party base and exerts great influence on the party even after he has been voted out of office. Many Republicans fear the ex-president’s wrath and therefore avoid speaking out against him openly – even if the storming of the Capitol by radical Trump supporters on January 6 and the behavior of the ex-president sparked indignation among many of them .
Process starts in February
The actual trial against Trump won’t begin until February 9. Until then, House prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys will submit their arguments in writing.
Should the president, who was voted out on November 3, unexpectedly be convicted, the Senate could expel him from future political offices. This means that the 74-year-old could not run for president again in 2024.
The House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Democrats, decided to impeach the right-wing populist a week after the Capitol was stormed. Trump became the first president in US history to face impeachment for the second time. The first impeachment proceedings against Trump for his efforts to get campaign support from Ukraine failed in February 2020.
Five people died in the riots in Washington on January 6, including a police officer who died from injuries sustained in the confrontations. As the US judiciary announced on Tuesday, 150 suspects have already been officially accused.