WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate advocates for Donald Trump stood in solidarity with him Sunday ahead of his impeachment trial, dismissing it as a waste of time, and argued that the former president’s passionate speech before the Capitol invasion did not holds responsible for the violence of January 6.
“If being held accountable means being impeachment by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate, the answer to that is no,” said Republican Senator Roger Wicker, making clear his view that Trump should and will be acquitted. Asked if Congress could consider another sanction, such as censorship, Wicker said the Democratic-majority House of Representatives had that option before, but turned it down to give preference to impeachment.
“That ship has already sailed,” he commented.
The Senate is due to initiate impeachment Tuesday to examine whether to bring the indictment that the combative words Trump addressed to protesters at a Capitol rally, as well as the falsehoods he repeated for weeks that the presidential election was stolen and manipulated, they caused a crowd to storm the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the riots, including a policeman.
Many senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, immediately denounced the violence and blamed Trump. After the insurrection, Wicker said that the Americans “will not tolerate this type of attack on the rule of law”, and, without naming names, said that “we must prosecute” those who undermine democracy.
But without Trump in office, Republicans have shown little political appetite for further action, such as a guilty plea at impeachment that could result in a ban on running for popularly elected office in the future. Those partisan divisions appear to be intensifying ahead of Trump’s trial, a sign that he continues to control the Republican Party.
On Sunday, Wicker described Trump’s impeachment trial as a “pointless partisan exercise in messaging.” When asked if Trump’s conduct should be more impeachment-worthy than that of President Bill Clinton, for whom Wicker voted In favor of his being prosecuted, he commented: “I am not acknowledging that President Trump has incited an insurrection.” Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 arose from his false testimony when giving his testimony about a sexual relationship with an intern from the White House.
Republican Senator Rand Paul dismissed Trump’s trial as a sham with “zero chance of conviction,” saying Trump’s words to protesters “fight like wild animals” while Congress was voting to ratify the presidential triumph of Joe Biden were just a “figure of speech”.
“If we are going to criminalize speech, and somehow politically prosecute everyone who says ‘go and fight to make your voices heard,’ then we really must impeach Chuck Schumer,” said Paul, referring to the today leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate and his criticism of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “He went to the Supreme Court, stood in front of the Supreme Court and specifically said, ‘Hey Gorsuch, hey Kavanaugh, they’ve unleashed a whirlwind. And they will pay a price for it. “
Paul noted that Chief Justice John Roberts had declined to preside over the impeachment proceedings this week because Trump is no longer president. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy will preside over the trial as interim president of the Senate.
“It is a sham, it is unconstitutional. But more than anything it’s foolish, and it’s going to divide the country, ”Paul said.
Last month, Paul forced a vote to dismiss the trial on the grounds that it was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president, although lawyers find that moot. However, the vote hinted at the near impossibility of finding Trump guilty in the Senate, where Democrats have 50 seats but it would take two-thirds of the votes – 67 senators – to do so.
Forty-four Republican senators joined Paul and voted against impeachment. Five Republican senators joined Democrats in rejecting Paul’s motion: Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey.
Some Republicans have said the vote does not “force” them to vote in a particular way to find him guilty, and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said Sunday he would listen carefully to the evidence. But even Trump’s harshest Republican critics on Sunday acknowledged the widely anticipated outcome.
“The vote of 45 Republican senators hinted that they do not think a trial is appropriate, so one can infer how likely it is that they will vote to find him guilty,” said Toomey, who has clearly said that he believes Trump committed “offenses worthy of a political trial ”.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s ardent defenders, said he believed the former president’s actions were wrong and “he will have a place in history for all of this,” but insisted that the Senate is not responsible for judging.
“The question is not how the trial ends, but when it ends,” Graham said. “Republicans are going to consider this an unconstitutional exercise, and the only question is: will they call witnesses, how long will the trial last? However, the outcome is not really in doubt. “
Wicker spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul on “Fox News Sunday,” Toomey on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Graham on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Associated Press journalist Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.