Republicans appeared to celebrate after a last ditch attempt to dismiss Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial attracted strong support, and diminished chances of a conviction.
As many as 45 Republicans backed a motion brought by Senator Rand Paul on Tuesday, who argued that a second impeachment trial would be “unconstitutional” because Mr Trump was no longer president.
His motion stated that “as of noon last Wednesday, Donald Trump holds none of the positions listed in the Constitution — he is a private citizen” and therefore the trial “violates the Constitution.”
Although the motion was not enough to stop the process, it effectively showed that Republicans would not go on to convict the former president, whose impeachment trial begins on 8 February.
As few as five Republican senators – Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey - voted against the measure, along with Democrats.
“It shows the impeachment is dead on arrival,” said Mr Paul afterwards. “If you voted that it was unconstitutional, how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?”
“Forty-five of us, almost the entire caucus… voted that the whole proceeding was unconstitutional so this is a big victory for us,” he continued. “This vote indicates it’s over.”
Another Republican senator, Marco Rubio, told Fox News on Sunday that the impeachment trail was “stupid” and “not even constitutional”, and that it would be damaging for America.
Marco Rubio acknowledges Trump "bears responsibility" for the Capitol insurrection, but insists holding him accountable with an impeachment trial is the wrong move because it'll "stir up" the country again pic.twitter.com/egtvNAgrS8
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 24, 2021
That was, according to the Republican senator, despite the former president “bear[ing] some responsibility for what happened” when his supporters stormed the US Capitol in a riot that killed five people on 6 January.
Mitch McConnell, the former Senate majority leader who accused Mr Trump and Republican colleagues of feeding the rioters “lies” about the election result, also supported Mr Paul’s motion despite his previous comments.
Ms Murkowski, a Republican who was still considering whether or not to convict Mr Trump over his role in the riot, said on Tuesday it was now hard to see senators changing their minds.
“Whether or not we’re going to see members change their mind after they’ve already taken a vote, I think that’s hard for people to do,” said Ms Murkowski, as the Hill reported.
Susan Collins, another anti-Trump Republican, added that it was “it's pretty obvious from the vote today that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the President will be convicted. Just do the math.”
Democrats will need the support of 17 Republicans to convict Mr Trump at the end of the impeachment trial, which could take weeks to conclude.