Lawmakers lay blame on Trump over riot as second impeachment trial looms
Republican and Democratic members of Congress on Sunday weighed in on the second impeachment trial of former President Trump, set to begin in the Senate this week.
While some Republicans laid blame on Trump for encouraging a mob to storm the Capitol last month to contest his 2020 presidential election loss, they continued to question the legality of an impeachment trial of a former president.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s most vocal supporters during his presidency, affirmed his opposition to a trial, citing Trump’s having left the White House.
“I think I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to end the impeachment trial because I think it’s blatantly unconstitutional,” Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
However, the South Carolina senator suggested history would hold Trump responsible for the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In January, the House impeached Trump for a historic second time on charges of inciting the riot. Ten Republican lawmakers voted in favor of impeachment, with many acknowledging that casting such a vote likely meant the end of their political careers.
“He had a consequential presidency. Jan. 6 was a very bad day for America, and he’ll get his share of blame in history,” Graham said.
Graham said after the insurrection that Trump’s presidency had been “tarnished” by his role in the riot but that he did not back the use of the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) took the opposite track, telling Fox News host Chris Wallace that “impeachment comes not only with the provision to remove an individual from office but to disqualify them from future office. I don’t think our job ends just because the president has left office.”
Murphy said the chamber was undecided on whether to call witnesses in the trial because, unlike the phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for which Trump was impeached in 2019, “we saw what happened in real time. President Trump sent that angry mob to the Capitol on live TV, so it’s not as important that we have witnesses.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), meanwhile, called the trial a “meaningless messaging partisan exercise.” He said impeachment was not meant to be used to hold someone accountable who was no longer in office.
“Now, if there are other ways, in the court of public opinion, or if some criminal charge dawns on some prosecutor, perhaps here’s another avenue there,” wicker told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Stephanopoulos brought up Wicker’s earlier comments that the impeachment of former President Clinton would “protect the long-term national interest of the United States, to affirm the importance of truth and honesty and to uphold the rule of law in our nation.”
Wicker responded that Clinton had been determined to have committed perjury, whereas “I’m not conceding that President Trump incited an insurrection.”
Seventeen Republicans would need to join all 50 Senate Democrats for the two-thirds majority necessary to convict the former president. Democrats have conceded this outcome is unlikely, particularly after all but five GOP senators joined Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in backing a challenge to the trial’s constitutionality.
On the House side, Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the highest-ranking Republican to vote to impeach Trump last month immediately following the insurrection, defended her vote after sharp backlash from her GOP colleagues that nearly cost her the leadership role.
“The oath that I took to the Constitution compelled me to vote for impeachment, and it doesn’t bend to partisanship. It doesn’t bend to political pressure,” Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s the most important oath that we take, and so I will stand by that, and I will continue to fight for all of the issues that matter so much to us all across Wyoming.”
Cheney did not say whether she would vote to convict Trump if she were in the Senate but said Republicans “should not be embracing the former president.”