During an interview with The Hill, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, declared that the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump should not proceed, arguing the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts would not preside over the senate trial “crystalized” the GOP argument that the proceedings are unconstitutional.
Paul this week used “a little-known procedural tactic, a privileged constitutional point of order, to strike a severe blow to Democrats’ hopes of convicting the former president on a House-passed article of impeachment.”
During the vote, Forty-five GOP senators sided with Paul’s motion that said “Trump’s impeachment trial of Trump is unconstitutional since he’s no longer in office.” The move made Paul a hero for Trump supporters who fear his leader would be further tarnished by an ugly impeachment trial.
“We’ve long been aware that a constitutional motion is a privileged motion and that it could happen. We discussed it within our office,” Paul told The Hill on Thursday. “What really crystalized it for me is that about a week ago we were on a Republican conference call and they said the chief justice wasn’t coming.”
“Myself and others were like, ‘Oh my goodness, the chief justice is not coming. That’s a huge, huge signal that there’s something wrong with this proceeding,’” Paul said, recounting a Senate GOP conference call on Jan. 21, the day after Trump left office.
However, Paul’s argument is flawed. The constitution only requires the Supreme Court Chief Justice to preside over a trial for a sitting president, not an ex-president. That role falls into the president of the Senate.
Paul said the news that Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) would preside over the second impeachment trial struck many Republicans as deeply unfair because Leahy voted to convict Trump on two articles of impeachment last year.
“The optics of the chief justice not coming and then also the optics of a person who had favored the last impeachment now presiding over the trial — who’s also going to vote in the trial — it just didn’t look right or sound right to any of us,” he added.