Kentucky Senator Rand Paul brought a point of order to the upper chamber as senators were sworn in for the beginning of President Trump’s second impeachment trial. He asked the attending lawmakers to vote on whether the prosecution itself was still constitutional as the man in question had already left office. In a stunning upset for Democrats – although perhaps not a surprising one – just five Republicans sided with the majority party. Does this mean the impeachment trial is officially “dead on arrival,” as stated by Paul? And if not, what purpose can be gained from continuing a case that is almost certain to fall at the final hurdle?
A Numbers Problem
To convict Trump requires a two-thirds majority, meaning 17 Republicans would have to side with the 48 Democrats and two Independents. Only then could the Senate move to a second simple majority vote of barring the former president from public office in the future. Paul’s point of order suggests that GOP senators who find the whole affair unconstitutional will likely not vote to convict, and this was almost certainly the purpose of making it.
Senior Democrats are caught between a rock and a hard place. It is now apparent that the trial will not lead to a conviction or a barring of Donald Trump from holding office further down the line. It is also evident that to pursue the prosecution to its bitter end will be seen by the voting public as an exercise in vanity and spite. But these are not the only problems.
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