Former US President Donald Trump speaks before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, US. File/AFP
Gulf Today Report
US Democrats’ efforts to convict Donald Trump at his impeachment trial suffered a fresh blow on Tuesday when forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort to halt trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign he will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol.
Almost all Republican senators backed dismissing the case, underlining the former president’s continuing hold over the party as Republican Senator Rand Paul made a motion on the Senate floor that would have required the chamber to vote on whether Trump's trial in February violates the US Constitution.
The Democratic-led Senate blocked the motion in a 55-45 vote. But only five Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to reject the move, far short of the 17 Republicans who would need to vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol assault that left five people dead.Senator Rand Paul makes a motion that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional in the Senate in Washington. AP
"It's one of the few times in Washington where a loss is actually a victory," Paul later told reporters. "Forty-five votes means the impeachment trial is dead on arrival."
The motion failed after all 50 Democrats and only five Republicans in the Senate did not support the push to throw out the case before the trial has begun.
Paul and other Republicans contend that the proceedings are unconstitutional because Trump left office last Wednesday and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy instead of by US Chief Justice John Roberts will oversee the trial.
Paul said afterward “that 45 Senators agreed that this sham of a ‘trial’ is unconstitutional... This ‘trial’ is dead on arrival in the Senate.”
Patrick Leahy, the 80-year-old senator presiding over the trial, was briefly hospitalized after Tuesday’s proceedings during which he sounded hoarse and unwell as lawmakers were sworn in as jurors.
“The Attending Physician recommended that he be taken to a local hospital for observation,” his spokesman said. He was released later in the evening.
Leahy, who was elected in 1974, is presiding as he is the senior senator of the party with the majority in the Senate, currently the Democrats.
The House of Representatives on Monday presented a single article of impeachment to the upper chamber accusing Trump of inciting the storming of the Capitol earlier this month, setting in motion the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.
The trial of Trump, who was impeached by the Democratic-majority House for an unprecedented second time, is to begin the week of Feb.8.
Trump — winner of 74 million votes in his loss to Biden on Nov.3 and reportedly sitting on some $70 million in campaign funds — wants Republican senators to consider their own futures before they dare cross him.
Trump’s main way of applying pressure while out of office is to threaten disloyal legislators with support for their challengers in party primary votes ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Trump’s endorsement on Monday of his former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in her bid to become governor of Arkansas was a first flexing of political muscle.
Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, vowed last week that the trial — already scheduled to open in the second week of February — should proceed, saying, “I don’t think it will be long, but we must do it.”
Senators voted 56-44 in favour of the constitutionality of the historic trial, rejecting a bid by Trump’s lawyers to throw it out on grounds that a former president cannot be tried by lawmakers.
Trump became the first US president in history to be impeached twice when the House of Representatives charged him last month with inciting the mayhem inflicted by his followers when they invaded Congress on Jan.6.
As the third presidential impeachment trial in US history began in earnest, Trump's chief legal defender argued the Democratic case was a baseless effort to overturn the 2016 election but a top Democratic lawmaker said there was "overwhelming" evidence of wrongdoing.
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