Sen. Tom Cotton said in a Wednesday statement that the Senate “lacks constitutional authority” to hold an impeachment trial for President Donald Trump after he leaves office.
“The House has passed an article of impeachment against the president, but the Senate under its rules and precedents cannot start and conclude a fair trial before the president leaves office next week,” the Arkansas Republican said.
“Under these circumstances, the Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president.”
Cotton added that the impeachment process was not created for the Senate to go after private citizens.
“The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office — not an inquest against private citizens. The Constitution presupposes an office from which an impeached officeholder can be removed,” he said.
The Arkansas senator said that “fidelity to the Constitution” should guide all decisions, and that is why he opposed the effort to reject certified electoral votes as well as the impeachment proceedings.
A majority of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection on Wednesday. Ten Republican representatives joined their Democratic colleagues to vote in favor of impeachment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a quick Senate impeachment trial for the president but did not rule out eventually voting to convict Trump.
Trump’s Senate trial is all but certain to be delayed until after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
However, McConnell acknowledged in a letter to his GOP colleagues that he had not made up his mind about whether Trump should be convicted of the House’s charge, The Associated Press reported.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote.
The second impeachment process for Trump began after the incursion of the Capitol on Jan. 6 while Congress met to certify the Electoral College votes.
“Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States,” the article of impeachment read.
“He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Trump has denied responsibility for the riot.
Cotton said that while the people involved in the incursion of the Capitol should be held responsible, Congress should immediately focus on helping Americans following Biden’s inauguration.
“Congress and the executive branch should concentrate entirely for the next week on conducting a safe and orderly transfer of power,” Cotton said.
“After January 20, Congress should get on with the people’s business: improving our vaccination efforts, getting kids back to school, and getting workers back on the job.”
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