45 Senate Republicans join the fascist attack on America
In this image from video, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes a motion that the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump is unconstitutional in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. | Senate Television via AP

WASHINGTON – Forty-five Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), voted yesterday to dismiss the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for his incitement of the fascist coup at the U.S. Capitol.

It didn’t matter to the 45 Republican senators yesterday that Trump sent mobs to assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and hang Vice President Pence. Mobs that ransacked their very own desks, smashed windows, and defaced the very room in which senators meet. Mobs that beat Capitol police with American flag poles and smashed fire extinguishers into the heads of the cops, killing two of them. Mobs that staged an attempted coup resulting in five deaths. “But so what,” the 45 Republican senators essentially said yesterday, “That was three weeks ago, let’s move on and let bygones be bygones. So what that they tried to stage a coup and overturn a free and fair election. So what that it was the worst attack on the Capitol since the British burned the place in the War of 1812?”

Only five Republicans voted yesterday with all the Democrats to kill Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s move to cancel the trial. The Republicans who backed his motion were afraid, of course, to openly back Trump’s coup so they hid behind a parliamentary maneuver to support Trump without having to come out and say that was what they were doing.

Paul’s motion said that holding such a trial of a former president was not constitutional.

The motion was absurd because there is plenty of precedent for the Senate trying former government officials. If the constitution did not allow such impeachments presidents and other public office holders could commit egregious crimes and avoid any consequences simply by quitting immediately after they commit the crime.

The Senate voted down Paul’s motion by a vote of 55-45. The trial will begin on Feb. 9. On that day House impeachment managers will present their arguments to the Senate.

The vote yesterday, however, indicates it is unlikely that there will be enough votes to ultimately convict Trump in the Senate. A majority of Republican senators are afraid to challenge Trump in any way or are themselves active participants in the ongoing attack on democracy in this country. Forty-five of them said today, with their vote, that the coup earlier this month is not a major concern for them.

“If you voted that it was unconstitutional, then how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?” Paul said to reporters after the Senate session today.

To convict Trump a two-thirds vote of the Senate would be needed, significantly more than the five who did so yesterday would have to cross over and vote with the Democrats.

A few Republican senators said the motion to dismiss the trial yesterday was separate from the issue of finding Trump guilty or innocent of the charges.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is not running again in 2022, described the two matters as “totally different.”

“I have the same position Mitch McConnell has,” Portman said of the motion to dismiss the impeachment trial.

That’s like saying his position, like McConnell’s, is all over the place since McConnell has been twisting in the wind for weeks now. Prior to the coup McConnell, like Portman, supported Trump on just about everything.

After years of backing the president on everything, including support for his court challenges regarding the 2020 election, McConnell said, earlier this month, that Trump “provoked” the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

At the time McConnell told his members that he was open to voting to convict Trump. He said he would “listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”

When now Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked McConnell to start the trial immediately, before Trump left office, McConnell said he wanted to wait until after Trump left office. He was the one who delayed the trial until after Trump left office. Now he says a trial can’t be held after a president leaves office. Nothing McConnell says can be trusted.

Between the attempted coup three weeks ago and the Senate vote yesterday, Republicans began shifting back to their pro-fascist allegiance and began to openly oppose Trump’s impeachment trial. To cover themselves and make it appear that they had real legal concerns they invited Jonathan Hurley, a right-wing law professor, to their weekly caucus lunch yesterday, to discuss why holding an impeachment trial for a former president was allegedly unconstitutional.

It was nothing more than an attempt to give Republicans, unwilling to openly back Trump’s coup, a legal excuse to support that coup by expressing “concern” for what is or is not constitutional.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was one of the five Republicans who didn’t go along with the scheme and who voted with the Democrats against the Paul motion.

“My review of it has led me to conclude it is constitutional in recognizing impeachment is not solely about removing a president. It is also a matter of political consequence,” Murkowski told HuffPost.

GOP Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania also voted against Paul’s motion.

It should come as no surprise that the majority of Republicans went home to Trump yesterday by trying to squash the impeachment trial. They have marched in lockstep with him for years and even the fact that the Trumpites ransacked the Capitol, rummaging through their very own desks, was not enough for them to pull away from the former president.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the floor of the Senate yesterday: “Former President Trump committed in the view of many, including myself, the gravest offense ever committed by a president of the United States. The Senate will conduct a trial of the former president, and senators will render judgment on his conduct.”

History will judge how the Republican senators vote on impeachment. A dozen more must step up and fulfill their oaths if justice and their legacies are to be preserved.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.