Perhaps Cocaine Mitch didn’t think all this through, but he’s now in a full retreat over the second impeachment of Donald Trump. Today, Rand Paul put together a procedural motion to declare Trump’s impeachment unconstitutional because he no longer holds the office of president in order to be removed from it. Somewhat surprisingly, given his past statements on the issue of Trump and the Capitol riot, McConnell voted in favor of that motion.
Senate rejects Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) attempt to declare Trump's impeachment trial unconstitutional, 55-45.
(Sen. Mitch McConnell sided with Paul's motion.)pic.twitter.com/yPU2ZcHZFV
— The Recount (@therecount) January 26, 2021
And just like that, Trump is certain to be acquitted a second time in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi’s gambit, joined by Republicans like Liz Cheney, was ill-advised from the start. McConnell’s vote is still surprising given he pushed the idea of impeachment early on. He had previously given two major speeches on the floor of the Senate pointedly claiming that Trump was responsible for inciting the riot that happened at the Capitol on January, 6th. McConnell appears to be in full retreat now, though. Having always known any impeachment trial wouldn’t happen until after Trump left office, he clearly overplayed his hand. Paul engaged in a stare down today, forcing his colleagues to go on record, and McConnell blinked.
If McConnell felt any post-presidency impeachment was unconstitutional, he should have mentioned that much earlier. Doing so would have put the Democrats on the defensive and saved a lot of good will with Republican voters who are now pretty furious. Instead, he straddled the fence until today and he’s going to get it coming and going. I guess there’s always the possibility that McConnell, after making such passionate proclamations on the floor about Trump’s supposed guilt, could still vote to convict. Yet, that seems unlikely. How do you vote to convict in a trial you believe to be unconstitutional? I don’t think he will do that.
As to whether Paul, McConnell, and the other 43 Republicans who voted in favor of the motion are correct, I think there’s a good case that they are. If we are reading the Constitution with an originalist lens, why would they limit impeachment to removal from office if they meant for the process to apply to those already out of office? It also clearly states that it applies to the President of the United States. Trump no longer holds that position. There are a lot of people, including many on the right, claiming this is constitutional without making a very good argument as to why.
Regardless, this was a miscalculation from the start. Ironically, it’s one that will make it more likely Trump runs in 2024. He’s never one to take a slight lying down. I doubt he starts now.