Josh Hawley Says 'Constitution Doesn't Allow' Senate to Try Donald Trump

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has said the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is unconstitutional and the Senate should be focusing on other matters.

Hawley, who voted to reject the Electoral College results from two states that President Joe Biden won in 2020, repeated the claim that the trial isn't permitted by the Constitution on Monday.

Several Republicans and the former president's legal team have also made this suggestion, which has been rejected by Democrats and some constitutional experts. Opening arguments are expected in the Senate on Wednesday.

"The Constitution doesn't allow it," Hawley said, according to Missouri TV station KTVO.

"The Constitution doesn't give the Senate the power to try and convict private citizens. I mean, it just doesn't," he said.

"Our founders made the choice not to do that, to limit the power of the Senate, and you can see why, because if ex-presidents can be tried and convicted once they are out of office, my goodness, every time we have a switch in party, you're going to see now the majority party coming in and saying let's try the ex-president."

Trump was impeached while still in the White House but many of his allies have claimed the Senate cannot try him now he's a private citizen.

However, there is precedent for the Senate to try a former office holder. In 1876 the Senate rejected a motion to dismiss the trial of former Secretary of War William Belknap, affirming that the chamber did have the power to try him.

Experts who spoke to Newsweek pointed to several other examples, including the attempted censure of former President James Buchanan in 1862—the year after he left office.

"Using the veil of the Constitution to criticize the legality, the constitutionality of the impeachment trial is kind of like a gloss on top of a political argument," said Thomas J. Balcerski, associate professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Hawley said on Wednesday that the Senate had more important issues to consider, pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects.

"I think there's no doubt about it, that's what we should be focusing on, COVID relief, and should be focused on helping folk," Hawley said.

"I mean, in the state of Missouri, we've gotta get more vaccine to the state of Missouri, we've gotta get more people vaccinated, I mean, we are in the throes of a major pandemic, and this is what the Democrats want to do with their time."

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) stands in the House Chamber on January 6. Hawley has said Donald Trump's impeachment trial is unconstitutional. Win McNamee/Getty Images