In a 56 – 44 vote on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, the Senate upheld the constitutionality of impeaching a former president. Both sides argued their positions for two hours. Trump’s legal team claimed that it is unconstitutional to impeach a former president because the official no longer holds office, and therefore cannot be removed.
One of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, told listening senators:
“If you vote to proceed with this impeachment trial, future senators will recognize that you bought into a radical constitution theory…”
He warned congress that the move is “unprecedented” and would allow for future elected officials to be at risk of impeachment when they are no longer in office.
He said, “They’re willing to sacrifice our national character to advance their hatred and their fear that one day, they might not be the party in power.”
On the other side of the debate, House impeachment managers began the impeachment trial by displaying video evidence from the insurrection at the Capitol building.
House managers also pointed to the 1876 impeachment trial of War Secretary William W. Belknap as a precedent for Trump’s second impeachment. A New York Times opinion piece from Monday made a similar case, claiming, “The Trump Trial Wouldn’t Have Been Possible Without This Impeachment.” Belknap was impeached by the House after resigning mid-scandal but was later acquitted.
As reported by USA Today, some Republican members were impressed by the Democratic team. Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi commented, “I thought the attorneys were very well prepared and well spoken. I think, actually the Democrats sent a better team this year than last.”
Six Republican senators voted with the Democrats, including Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Cassidy is the only additional senator to join the original group of five that voted the same way against Senator Rand Paul’s motion last month. Paul wanted to hold a vote on the constitutionality of Trump’s impeachment, but it was struck down in a 55 — 45 vote. Since 45 Republican senators agreed with his stance that a former president cannot be impeached, the Senator from Kentucky declared this as evidence that the impeachment “is dead on arrival.”
According to CNN, even the Republicans who disagreed with Paul’s view on the impeachment — including Senator Collins — said the “vote was a sign of the eventual outcome of the trial.”
The Democrats need at least seventeen Republican senators in order to be successful this week. 67 votes will achieve the two-thirds majority and result in a conviction of the former president.
Tuesday’s vote means that the trial continues on Wednesday at noon. The Democratic House impeachment managers will have another opportunity to make their case that the former president incited the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.