Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial

Senators from both parties dueled over the legality of impeaching a former president on the Sunday political talk show circuit this week, indicating that resistance within the GOP caucus will complicate efforts to reach the 67-vote threshold necessary to convict former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE over the events of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

On ABC's "This Week," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference Klobuchar, Murkowski urge FTC to protect domestic abuse victims' data MORE (D-Minn.) defended the constitutionality of Democrats' push for impeachment, which the party has argued is necessary in part to prevent Trump from seeking office again. 

In her argument, Klobuchar pointed to the 1876 decision by the Senate declaring that it had jurisdiction to pursue a trial against a former Cabinet official who had resigned before his Senate impeachment trial began.

“It is constitutional. We have precedent from way back when a secretary of war was tried after he had left office. And, obviously, there was a remedy that would help in the future, which would ban former President Trump from running again,” she told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

On CNN's "State of the Union" and "Fox News Sunday," Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits Republicans, please save your party MORE (R-Utah), who would be a key Republican vote in favor of conviction, indicated that he agreed with Klobuchar and the Democratic majority on the issue of the legality of their impeachment push. He did not say whether he would vote to convict the president a second time around.

"I'll of course hear what the lawyers have to say for each side. But I think it's pretty clear that the effort is constitutional," he told CNN's Dana BashDana BashKhashoggi fiancée: Not punishing Saudi crown prince would be 'stain on our humanity' Senate Democrat: Saudi relationship being 'recalibrated' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE.

But on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsIndigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-S.D.) threw cold water on any attempts at securing his vote for impeachment, telling host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddBrown vows Democrats will 'find a way' to raise minimum wage Fauci lays out timeline for vaccinating teens, children Trudeau: Canadian, US border to remain closed 'for now' MORE that the impeachment question was a "moot point" now that Trump has left office.

"To begin with, I think it's a moot point," Rounds said. "Donald Trump is no longer the president. He is a former president."

"Article I ... specifically point[s] out that you can impeach the president, and it does not indicate that you can impeach someone that is not in office. So I think it is a moot point, and it's one I think they would have a very difficult time in getting done in the Senate," he added.

The disagreement over the legality of impeachment indicates a steep climb Democrats will face as they pursue the 67 votes required for Trump's conviction over the course of his trial, set to begin in February. Trump is the first U.S. president in history to be impeached twice by the House.

A handful of GOP senators, including Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.), Ben SasseBen SasseSenators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks Republicans, please save your party MORE (Neb.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date MORE (Alaska), have indicated that they believed the former president committed impeachable offenses with his incitement of the mob that descended upon the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress debated the official Electoral College count affirming President Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.  

GOP sources told The Hill last week that they expect a handful of defections from their party during the upcoming impeachment trial but said the effort to convict Trump will still likely fail.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster MORE proposed on a call last week that the impeachment trial be delayed until February to give Trump enough time to mount a defense.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal MORE (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s closest allies, told senators on the call that Trump had hired Butch Bowers, an attorney from South Carolina, to defend him at the Senate trial.