Precedence acknowledged amid constitutionality concerns of Trump impeachment


DENVER (KDVR) — Legal experts continue to debate whether it’s constitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president. A majority of senators voted Tuesday to proceed with the trial. But 45 Republicans are signaling a conviction may not happen.

While former President Donald Trump cannot be thrown out of an office he no longer holds, the process could prevent him from holding public office again.

“Those, you would think, in the Republican Party– more than five– people would’ve thought this is a nightmare we want to get over and don’t want to replay it down the road,” said Norman Provizer, political science professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Provizer pointed to former President Richard Nixon’s resignation when Republicans told the president they would not stand by him. The current political atmosphere, however, is very different, Provizer said.

“[Tuesday’s] vote gives you a pretty good signal of the sentiment of the jurors involved,” he said.

That vote occurred after Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky attempted to force an initial vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then forced a vote to table Paul’s motion and succeeded with only five Republican votes.

Provizer said there’s precedence to move forward. In 1876, the secretary of war resigned moments before he was to be impeached. That action did not prevent his impeachment.

The Constitution does not specifically say senators cannot convict a former president. It does say the chief justice shall preside over the trial of the president– not a former president. That’s how Justice John Roberts escaped presiding over Trump’s current impeachment trial. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy is serving as the judge. Shortly after swearing in his fellow senators as jurors, Leahy was hospitalized. He said he didn’t feel well. He was released from the hospital late Tuesday, according to his office.

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