Rand Paul Forces Fellow Republicans to Show Their Hands on Impeachment

Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul made a point of order Tuesday afternoon to dismiss the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump because it's unconstitutional, a move which forced fellow Republicans to vote on whether to stop the proceedings before they even begin.

The Tuesday vote showed only 5 GOP senators aligned themselves with Democrats in support of continuing with a trial, making it difficult to believe Democrats will obtain the 17 needed to convict Trump. Paul took the Senate floor Tuesday to write off the entire trial which will decide Trump's guilt in inciting the January 6 Capitol riots. Paul forced a procedural vote which seeks to prove that two-thirds of the Senate won't convict the former president with or without a trial. Paul's move forced the Republican senators to immediately display their true feelings on whether they were even open to convicting the former president. As the test vote showed, 45 Republicans went on record saying they don't view the trial as constitutional, effectively removing almost any doubt that a two-thirds majority will convict.

Although there's no guarantee that 17 Republicans could change their mind after the trial, the staggering number of 45 who view the proceedings as entirely unconstitutional shows little promise of a conviction happening. The trial is set to take place on February 8. The five Republicans who sided with Democrats were Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) arrives for the weekly Senate Republican lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on November 10. Paul said Wednesday that he hopes President Donald Trump vetoes the COVID-19 stimulus bill passed by Congress this week. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

Several Republicans including recently elected Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said they "think there's probably a constitutional basis" for the trial—but the Tuesday vote forced and others to put a vote behind that musing. That did not happen for him and 44 other Republicans.

The Tuesday test vote forced by Paul revealed several clues about how many GOP senators were considering conviction, even if that number does not reach the 17 needed to get a two-thirds majority.

"This impeachment is nothing more than a partisan exercise designed to further divide the country. Democrats claim to want to unify the country, but impeaching a former president, a private citizen, is the antithesis of unity," Paul said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

"I think there will be enough support on it to show there's no chance they can impeach the president. If 34 people support my resolution that this is an unconstitutional proceeding, it shows they don't have the votes and we're basically wasting our time," Paul told reporters.

Several Republicans including Senators John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming have already said they plan to vote alongside Paul to dismiss the entire trial proceedings. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he's approaching the impeachment trial with an open mind. Utah Senator Romney—the lone Republican who voted to convict Trump during his first impeachment, said this week that the trial is constitutional even if Trump has already left office.

Presidential historian and CNN contributor Douglas Brinkley said Tuesday that the unconstitutional argument against the trial is "typical Rand Paul rambling nonsense." But he highlighted how Paul's move will at least expose whether some of the Republican senators think there was any wrongdoing—or if this is just a "hyper-partisan" effort by Democrats as Paul claimed on the Senate floor.

"I want this body on record. Is this how you think politics should be? In a few minutes I will insist on a vote to affirm that this proceeding is unconstitutional," Paul tweeted before calling for the Tuesday test vote.

Newsweek reached out to Paul's office for additional remarks Tuesday afternoon.