Five Republicans joined Democrats in rejecting motion that would have forced the chamber to vote on whether the lawsuit violates the U.S. Constitution

The US Senate on Tuesday voted 55-45 to block a Republican effort to reverse plans for the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for instigating the deadly Jan.6 attack on the US Capitol.

In a first test of the Senate impeachment campaign, five Republicans joined Democrats in rejecting a motion by Republican Senator Rand Paul that would have forced the chamber to vote on whether the trial violates the U.S. Constitution.

Mr Paul and other Republicans argue the process is unconstitutional because Mr Trump stepped down last Wednesday and the trial will be overseen by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy instead of US Chief Justice John Roberts.

“This procedure, which would judge a private citizen and not a president, vice-president or civilian officer, violates the Constitution,” Paul told fellow senators after being sworn in as jurors for the trial which was to be held. start on February 9. .

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed Mr. Paul’s argument as “completely false” and “a constitutional release card” for presidents guilty of misconduct.

Most of the 50 Republican Senate lawmakers voted against a motion by Mr. Schumer to kill Mr. Paul’s proposal.

Mr Paul had predicted that supporting his decision would show the Senate unable to convict Mr Trump, which would require 67 votes. But some Republicans have described Tuesday’s vote and the question of Mr. Trump’s guilt as separate issues.

There is debate among academics as to whether the Senate can hold a trial for Mr. Trump now that he has stepped down. Many experts have said “late impeachment” is constitutional, arguing that presidents who commit misconduct late in their terms should not be immune from the very process established in the Constitution to hold them accountable.

The Constitution makes it clear that impeachment proceedings may result in disqualification from performing office in the future, so it remains an active issue for the Senate to resolve, the academics said.

“ Question of political consequence ”

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who criticized Mr. Trump, rejected Mr. Paul’s decision.

“My consideration of this one has led me to conclude that it is constitutional, recognizing that impeachment is not just about removing a president, it is also a matter of political consequence,” Murkowski told Tuesday. journalists.

Ms Murkowski joined fellow Republican Senators Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse and Patrick Toomey in opposing Mr Paul.

Mr Trump is the only president to have been indicted by the House of Representatives twice and the first to stand trial after leaving office, with the possibility of being disqualified from future public office if he is condemned by two-thirds of the Senate.

The House approved a single article of impeachment – the equivalent of an indictment in a criminal trial – on January 13, accusing him of inciting insurgency with an inflammatory speech to supporters before he ‘They didn’t storm the Capitol on January 6. A policeman and four others died in the melee.

At least 17 Republicans are expected to join the 50 Democrats in the equally divided Senate for Mr Trump to be sentenced, a two-thirds threshold that seems unlikely to be reached. Mr. Trump remains a powerful force among Republicans, and his supporters have pledged to address electoral challenges to party lawmakers who support the condemnation.

Some Republicans have criticized Mr. Trump’s false allegations of electoral fraud and his unsuccessful efforts to reverse President Joe Biden’s election victory on November 3. But no Senate Republican has definitively declared that they plan to vote to condemn him.

Although the Constitution calls for the chief justice to preside over presidential impeachment trials, a senator presides when the person charged is not the current president, a source in the Senate said. First elected to the chamber in 1974, Leahy, 80, is the chamber’s longest-serving Democrat and holds the title of Speaker of the Senate pro tempore.

The nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors kicked off the trial on Monday by handing over the impeachment article to the Senate.

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