Paul's effort to stop Senate trial on Trump fails, but tally shows GOP won't supply votes to convict

"This trial is a sham, a travesty, and a dark blot on the history of our country," Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul said before the vote.

Updated: January 26, 2021 - 8:12pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Senate on Tuesday derailed an effort by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul to force the chamber to vote on the constitutionality of holding an impeachment trial for former President Trump. But the 55-45 vote tally that stopped the effort was a clear indicator that Senate Republicans support Paul's constitutional argument and won't supply enough votes for chamber Democrats to convict Trump. 

The move made good on the libertarian-minded Paul's promise earlier in the day to force such a vote — and perhaps end the trial before it starts next month.

The five Republicans senators who joined Democrats were Susan Collins, of Maine; Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; Mitt Romney, of Utah; Ben Sasse, of Nebraska; and Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania

Paul doesn't mince words in talking about the upcoming trial of Trump, who left office nearly a week ago. Earlier this month, while still in office, the Democrat-controlled House voted yes on one article of impeachment — insurrection — for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building. The vote sent the article to the Senate for the impeachment trial.

The Constitution sets out a detailed process by which a chief executive can be removed from office: A majority vote in the House to impeach, then a two-thirds vote in the Senate after a trail to weight evidence on the charges.

But there's no mechanism by which the Senate can remove a president from office – the single goal of an impeachment and trial – after he has left office.

"I want to put the Senate on the record," Paul wrote in an op-ed on Tuesday in The Washington Examiner. "I will insist on holding a vote that makes every last senator vote on whether they believe this proceeding, the impeachment trial of a private citizen, is unconstitutional, illegal, and essentially a bill of attainder; on whether there is any fairness or due process in having a partisan Democrat already on record as favoring impeachment presiding over this trial; and on whether this is how our politics should be."

"This trial is a sham, a travesty, and a dark blot on the history of our country. I urge my colleagues to reconsider this kangaroo court and move forward to debate the great issues of our day," he wrote.

In his piece, Paul blasted Democrats, saying, "they claim to want to unify the country, but impeaching a former president, a private citizen, is the antithesis of unity. This impeachment is nothing more than a partisan exercise designed to divide the country further."

"They have brazenly appointed an openly pro-impeachment Democrat to preside over the trial. This is not fair or impartial, and it hardly encourages any kind of unity for the country. If we are about to try to impeach a president, then where is the chief justice? If the accused is no longer president, then where is the constitutional power to impeach him?" he wrote.

"Democrats insist on applying a test of incitement to a Republican that they refuse to apply to themselves. Shame on these angry, unhinged partisans, deranged by their hatred of the former president. Shame on those who seek blame and revenge, and who choose to pervert a constitutional process while doing so," the Kentucky Republican wrote.

It's not the first time Paul has ripped the process. On Sunday, in another op-ed piece, the senator called the trial a "farce" and said the single article of impeachment "should be dismissed."

"If Justice [John] Roberts is not presiding over this, then it is not impeachment. This charade will be nothing more than bitter partisanship and political theater,"  he wrote in piece for The Hill headlined “Boycott Sham Impeachment."

Paul concluded his op-ed: "I am more than willing to work with Democrats to find common ground on protecting civil liberties or ending some of our many foreign military interventions, but no unity or common ground will be found while Democrats continue to fight the last election. This so-called impeachment is a farce and should be dismissed before it is even allowed to begin."