Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday told BlazeTV host Glenn Beck that he will act to force a procedural vote in the Senate on whether the impending impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is constitutional.
The trial is currently scheduled to begin the week of Feb. 8. Senators will be officially sworn in as jurors today, but before that Paul intends to make the argument that an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional.
“Republican leadership has made a deal. And wants to make a deal with Schumer, to allow a Democrat to preside over this hearing,” Paul told Beck, referring to Monday’s announcement that Senate president pro tempore Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will preside over the trial, not Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. “But my point is, if you’re impeaching the president, the chief justice needs to be there. But if the person is no longer president, he’s a private citizen. It is an impeachment.”
“If someone has committed a crime, and they’re no longer the president, the Department of Justice has to accuse them of a crime that you go to a court,” Paul continued. “But this is only for impeaching somebody. And the Constitution says, when you impeach and later on, you can disqualify. But it’s ‘and.’ It isn’t ‘or.’
“If you can’t impeach him any longer, we’re doing something that’s never been to a president before. It’s going to divide the country further. It’s a huge mistake.”
Paul speculated that Chief Justice Roberts and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have had conversations about the impeachment trial, suggesting that Roberts may have told Schumer he will not preside over the impeachment trial because Donald Trump is no longer the president, and therefore Roberts is not constitutionally obligated to do so.
“It goes to the very nature and legitimacy of this thing. With John Roberts not showing up, the chief justice not being here,” Paul said. “I think this is an illegitimate process, from top to bottom.”
Former President Trump was the first president to be impeached twice and would be the first ex-president to be tried by the Senate after he has already left office. The uniqueness of Trump’s situation has triggered legal and scholarly debate over whether the Senate has the constitutional power to try Trump after he has left office.
Many Republicans like Paul argue the Senate does not have such power. George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, and other respected lawyers and judges have argued the Senate trial is unconstitutional. Still others like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) argue that the trial is constitutional and that the impeachment power to remove a civil officer from office and disqualify him from future office are separate powers, meaning the Senate can still bar Trump from running for re-election in 2024.
Paul predicted that his maneuver to object to the impeachment proceedings will fail but was adamant that he still needed to stand up for what he believes is right.
“Today, if I don’t say anything, Republicans and Democrats will agree by unanimous consent to install a Democrat to preside over this proceeding. An illegitimate proceeding with an illegitimate Democrat overseeing it. So I’m going to object to that and call out the double standard,” Paul said.
“And I don’t think we’ll win,” he added. “The Democrats will win. But I’ll force them to vote on it. My hope is I get 40 Republicans to vote with me.”
“If I do, that shows they don’t have the votes to impeach at that point. And so basically, the trial is over,” Paul said. “They can go through the manipulations, but if 40 of us vote that this is an unconstitutional use of the impeachment power, then they’re done. They can do whatever they want. But we will show them. If I don’t do this, our leadership will acquiesce with Schumer. There will be no votes. And they will go through the whole trial, as if this sham is actually a real impeachment. So I do say, we do to have fight them.”