Ethics Dunces: The 55 U.S. Senators Who Voted That It Is Constitutional For The Senate To Impeach A Private Citizen

Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) offered the obvious and obligatory point of order resolution that a Senate trial of a private citizen, that being former President Trump, is unconstitutional, which it unquestionably is. The resolution failed 55-45, with every Democrat voting for the measure along with five NeverTrump Republicans: Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

This means that 55 U.S. Senators, all of whom took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution, have stated on the record that they will do no such thing. Yet their votes do not decide what is constitutional. The Constitution decides. Consider: not a single Democratic Senator had the integrity, independence and courage to declare that what the Constitution says is what the Constitution says, and that the U.S. Senate should not, indeed must not, ignore it to satisfy obsessive Democratic spite. Not one.

That’s one helluva party you got there, Joe.

In addition to that,

  • Since at least 17 Republican senators would need to join Democrats in order to convict Trump, the vote means that the “trial,” which has already been rejected as such by the Chief Justice declining to preside, which he could not do if the trial were constitutional, is also a waste of time. Acquittal is assured.
  • Those who voted in direct contradiction of the Constitution are depending on the incompetent/ enabling news media to keep the public ignorant by failing to explain what their votes mean.
  • Ironically, holding an impeachment trial, since it is a direct breach of the Constitution, is a genuine impeachable offense, unlike what the invalid trial seeks to convict the former President of committing.
  • “I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Sen Tom Cotton told the Associated Press yesterday. If Republicans have an ounce of competence, they will use the “trial” to explain to such Americans why Democrats think the Constitution doesn’t matter, and what the implications of that are for democracy and the nation.

51 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: The 55 U.S. Senators Who Voted That It Is Constitutional For The Senate To Impeach A Private Citizen

  1. One hundred percent of elected democrat senators believe the constitution is an irrelevant document that has no bearing on their actions.

    Ten percent of elected republican senators believe the constitution is an irrelevant document that has no bearing on their actions.

    It looks like we have reached a critical mass of elected officials ignoring the constitutions existence. The executive branch is not a valid check on unconstitutional behavior right now, as it is held by a democrat and democrats have one hundred percent agreed that the constitution is irrelevant. The judicial system seems to have decided it has no standing on issues of constitutionality, so it is not a check on unconstitutional behavior either.

    Can we even call ourselves a constitutional republic anymore?

    • They have a right to an opinion, but not to imaginary facts. The Constitution says that an impeachment trial is for Presidents. “A different interpretation” can not mean “what I wish it says, but doesn’t.”

      Lame comment. Do better.

      • The Constitution says that an impeachment trial is for Presidents

        No, it doesn’t. It says that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole power of impeachment”, and that “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” It further states an additional rule that when the President is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside, which suggests there must be impeachment trials where the President is not the one being tried. The “no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds” clause would also be an odd phrasing if impeachment trials were intended to be limited to the president.

        Historically, in addition to Presidents, the US Senate has tried a senator, a Secretary of War, and a whole smattering of judges.

        • Come on, spare me the sophistry, please. The topic is Presidential impeachments, so my statement is correct. Are you really arguing that because “person” is used, that the Senate can impeach any of us? “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States” Since the defendant in this bogus trial isn’t In office, there can be no judgement, hence no trial.

          Your reference to other officials being impeached is irrelevant to the topic at hand. They are still all officials, and in office. So I’m sorry if “The Constitution says that an impeachment trial is for Presidents’ is insufficiently precise: The Constitution says that a Presidential impeachment trial is for Presidents, and not non-Presidents, former Presidents, or plumbers.

          • Your statement was that Senate Impeachment trials were for Presidents. That was manifestly incorrect. When we’re talking about law, ‘technically correct’ is the best kind of correct.

            “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States” Since the defendant in this bogus trial isn’t In office, there can be no judgement, hence no trial.

            Except that disqualification from further office can apply to a person no longer holding office, therefore it isn’t true that there can be no meaningful judgement.

            But beyond that, you’re making categorical claims here as if they were written into the plain text of the Constitution, and they just aren’t. The constitution doesn’t address the question of whether a person impeached in office can still be tried after they leave. We’re left with interpretation, and existing precedent, however thin, is not on the side of such trials being unconstitutional.

            I can see how many might take the position that it’s unconstitutional and that the Belknap trial was unlawful. But let’s not go around pretending it’s black-letter law.

            • The fact that only those in office can be put out of office is black letter law, and also clear on its face: you can’t remove from office one who isn’t in office.

              “Except that disqualification from further office can apply to a person no longer holding office, therefore it isn’t true that there can be no meaningful judgement.” Again, sophistry. That “person” has to have been put out of office at that time via conviction, and that can’t happen if the individual was out of office. You’re literally arguing that the senate could decide to vote that you couldn’t hold office. It can’t.

              And the fact that the Constitution was violated once in the Belknap case doesn’t change the Constitution. Trying and convicting Eugene Debs for absolutely protected speech isn’t a precedent for ignoring the First Amendment.

              • Again, sophistry. That “person” has to have been put out of office at that time via conviction, and that can’t happen if the individual was out of office. You’re literally arguing that the senate could decide to vote that you couldn’t hold office. It can’t.

                Again, you’re reading things into the text that aren’t there. It’s clear from the text that the President, Vice President, or any civil officer of the United States can be impeached by the House. Trump was impeached while he was President. It’s also clear from the text that the Senate has the power to try all impeachments, and that at least one of the possible punishments upon conviction is not mooted by the defendant having left office. You might want to infer that the disqualification from holding future office is predicated on the defendant having been removed from office via the same action, but this is not stated in the text, nor is it the only plausible way the text could be interpreted.

                • That’s the point: it IS the only way that the text can be interpreted. Thus if a criminal is indicted and dies before trial, he isn’t tried anyway. We don’t have show-trials in the US, and a trial that has no consequences is just that. The impeachment, though stupid, partisan, and itself in defiance of due process and Constitutional standards, was still legitimate on the single point of seeking to remove an office-seeker while that individual was in office.

                  • I don’t think you’re quite right on this one, Jack, and I think Dave’s argument is as clear as it could be.

                    The question isn’t whether any person can be impeached- it’s whether the “and” in the clause means “an impeachment proceeding by which a person can be removed from office AND barred from holding that office in the future” or if it means “an impeachment proceeding by which a person can be removed from office” AND “an impeachment proceeding in which a person can be precluded from holding that office again.”

                    I agree what was likely intended was the former meaning- but I think you paint a bit too broadly to assume that those who believe the latter argument have no grounds to stand on. Nor would the latter interpretation lead to meaningless impeachment procedures. If Trump were impeached on the latter interpretation, it would preclude him from holding the office in the future. That’s not a show-trial. It has a real world effect.

                    All of this is relatively meaningless because no one can point me to the high crime, treason, bribe, or misdemeanor Trump actually committed- and that, in itself, is where the ethics are totally missing- before we ever get to the argument about the text of the Impeachments clause.

                    (Sorry if you get this twice- WordPress)

              • Plus, the Constitution reminds those so offended that Impeachment and Removal (potentially including future Disqualification) aren’t the only remedy:

                “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

                If there really is a “there” there, then private citizen Trump should be hauled before a court of law.

                But there is *not* a “there” there, so the miscreant Democrats are reduced this Republic-undermining theatrical farce.

  2. Nicely played, Rand.

    Everyone is on record before proceedings have even begun.

    The 45 cannot vote to convict if they think the proceeding is improper.

    Some of the 55 could vote against conviction, even if they think there is jurisdiction. They can still save themselves.

    Nicely played.

    -Jut

  3. If Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, and all government officials are not above the law. Obviously, many have just broken the law. Why can’t citizens themselves unite and bring legal action against each one and have them removed from office? Then again, all entities I just mentioned, even if there are laws and do not want to abide by laws, nothing is done.

    • Playing mock trial while the President issues the most Executive Orders in his first week in office of any previous President is negligence. Even under normal circumstances, this would be dereliction of duty.

      It reminds me of the Reichstag Fire Act and the Enabling Act which allowed Hitler to make laws without going through the Reichstag. I used to describe that scenario by asking people to imagine if the President were able to make laws without going through Congress. Once upon a time, that was a ridiculous notion.

    • They can talk ab out what Stephen Daisley mentioned.

      http://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-case-for-liberal-pessimism

      America lacks leadership and above all it lacks moral leadership. The storming of the Capitol brought this home in the moral surrender of the GOP and the moral vacuity of its condemners in the Democrat Party, the mainstream media and civil society. A mob, encouraged by the President of the United States, breached the Senate in an attempt to obstruct the confirmation of an election. This un-American carnage called for clear, thunderous declamation, yet while the words that came brought volume there was a weightlessness to them because of who they came from.

      They rebuked ‘an unspeakable assault on our nation’ who, asked whether mobs had the right to tear down Christopher Columbus statues, had shrugged: ‘People will do what they do’. They denounced ‘that Trump mob that attacked the citadel of our democracy’ who, mere months ago, had demanded ‘show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful’. They deplored a ‘domestic terrorist attack’ on Capitol Hill who, last summer, had proclaimed ‘there needs to be unrest in the streets’. The point is not that one articulation of violence excuses another, nor even that moral parity exists between them, but that the legitimacy of violence has become a debate within mainstream US politics.

  4. “Ironically, holding an impeachment trial, since it is a direct breach of the Constitution, is a genuine impeachable offense, unlike what the invalid trial seeks to convict the former President of committing.”

    So much for protect and defend? I want to know if any Republicans in the House are willing to draft Articles of Impeachment against the 55 insurrectionists who are violating their oath of office.

  5. The Democratic Party has been on a downslide since the Clinton years. The party has respected anything other than power less and less with each Congress and each president to come out of their ranks. The last Democratic president to be any kind of worthy person was Harry S. Truman, who stood up to the USSR in Berlin and Korea, desegregated the military, and didn’t hesitate to battle greedy unions. What have they produced since? JFK stood up to the USSR and got the Civil Rights Act off the ground, but also failed miserably at the Bay of Pigs and behaved like a pig himself. LBJ got us into Vietnam to satisfy his bully ego, but had no clue how to win or get us out, and he institutionalized the welfare state. This nation lost nothing when he chose not to run in 1968. Carter? Two words: inflation and hostages. Yet he still tries to fix other nations’ problems instead of hiding in shame. Clinton? The only reason the economy did well on his watch was that he was too busy getting hummers in the White House and then denying it ever happened. Then you had Obama, the affirmative action president, who, like most affirmative action hires, was a complete underwhelm. Now you have Sleepy Joe, who’s killed 11,000 jobs in the first week and is just getting warmed up with bringing back the Obama years of zero economic growth and haplessness abroad.

    Who now leads the Democrats in Congress? The Sam Nunns, the Henry “Scoop” Jacksons and even the Tip O’Neils are long gone. In their place who have you seen lately? The lying bastard Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, 80 years old, clueless, and just plain nasty, and Chuck the Schmuck, a garden variety bully who just got too far in life, not to mention the crazy Bernie Sanders and the crazier “squad.” Somewhere in this the idea that elected officials, whatever party they might come from, were elected to serve the people that elected them, got lost. For at least three decades it’s been all about fighting the members of the other party and treating them like the enemy. For the last five or six years it’s become all about stopping ANYTHING happening just to deny the other side a win, and screw what happens to the American people in the meantime. Whether they need medicine to combat a pandemic, money to prevent an economic collapse, whatever they need, the Democrats are going to gum up the works until they can give it, and give it on their terms only. Otherwise, the people get NOTHING.

    The Democrats have dipped beyond this into complete hypocrisy. They were the people cheering on the mindless destruction last summer, who now want to come down like an anvil when people on the other side decided to “take it to the streets” and bring the violence to them. Now they want to impeach a president who is no longer president against the Constitution and purely for spite. Punishment for spite is the mark of a tyrannical regime. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who’s ok with this is a tyrant, and is due to do a little Jeffersonian refreshing with their own blood.

  6. *cough* William W. Belknap *cough*

    Leaving office does not protect you from the consequences of your actions, neither does having a member of your party refuse to hold the trial until the other party is in power.

    • Just because it was done once unconstitutionally doesn’t mean it’s okay to repeat.

      Also, presidents are not “officers” as defined in the Constitution (but Secretaries of War were), so there is a material difference there.

      Belknap is neither an appropriate nor reasonable precedent to the instant case. Sorry.

      Care to try for strike two? 🙂

      • Remember that valkygrrl took the side of the insurrectionists who tried to burn down the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland- with people inside.

        She is not against insurrection per se– only when it is done by those she does not like.

        • It’s also useful to remember, when considering Valky’s credibility and ethical foundation, that she enthusiastically cheered on the possibility of murdering young soldiers who were present to ensure no unruly behavior may happen at polling stations.

          Imagine that level of depravity.

          • She also talked about murdering governors around the time Trump was elected. Everybody’s record here speaks for itself. That said, as a writer, I would point everyone back to the common tropes of Evil Is Not a Toy, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, and Collateral Damage. Impeachment, insurrection, and other radical acts are dangerous and frequently have unintended consequences, often for those who aren’t and should not be involved. They should not be undertaken lightly.

            My biggest concern with this impeachment is not that it will convict Trump or bar him from office. Even if it did, the last few decades have shown that there are fewer things harder to break or more resilient than a political party, and leaders come, go, and frequently are shown, as is part of being human, to have feet of clay. Other GOP leaders will arise, and are in fact overdue since Generation X still hasn’t gotten its turn at bat. By the same token, however, precedents, once set, are just as hard to break or get rid of, and once you put a foot on a slippery slope, you don’t know how quickly you will slide to the bottom. The procedures and powers of government are supposed to be tools to keep society functional. They are not supposed to be weapons to work one party’s or one small group’s vendetta against another party or group or person, at least not in a functioning republic or democracy. Washington D.C. of the 21st century was never meant to be and should not be the Holy Roman Empire with Guelfs and Ghibellines fighting a de facto civil war, or revolutionary France with political opponents being openly destroyed and often executed, or the fading democracy of Argentina of the later 20th century, when those deemed problematic simply disappeared.

            We can get there quicker than you think.

        • I’d have to go back and look, I don’t remember. But if so, that’s a shame. Plus, we need to quit using the word “insurrection” to describe a riot.

          Technically, I suppose, any riot with a connection to opposition to authority could be called an insurrection. For the purposes of rational thought and discussion, however, we should really try to confine “insurrection” to an organized, armed attack on government, and I don’t include homemade weapons and clubs as sufficient to qualify as “armed. In the modern context, we should consider only firearms as arms in discussing something as an “insurrection,” and unless said arms are actually deployed and used (either in a deadly threat or deadly force), and absent clear organization, I would think using “insurrection” is not appropriate.

          So I’m going to refer to both as riots based on the foregoing, and encourage due consideration when discussing these types of events to whether or not “insurrection” is actually a useful description. By my reckoning, neither the riots on the left nor the January 6th affair qualify as an insurrection.

      • Glenn Logan: “Just because it was done once unconstitutionally doesn’t mean it’s okay to repeat.”

        But, isn’t that the very question. valkygrrl gave an example where an impeachment occurred after a person left office.

        It seems that whether it was constitutional is the very question at issue. At the very least, there is precedent for the Senate to determine its jurisdiction. However, as I said above, that you have enough Senators to acquit believing that there is no jurisdiction makes it almost certain Trump will not be convicted.

        Also, while Belknap may be distinguishable, it is not unquestionably so.

        -Jut

        • JutGory said:
          But, isn’t that the very question. valkygrrl gave an example where an impeachment occurred after a person left office.

          No, because the two cases are, in my view, apples and oranges. Belknap was a cabinet officer, and an “officer of the United States,” which gets different treatment than the President in the Constitution, even though both are included in the impeachment clause.

          Second, a majority of the Senate then did not believe they had the authority to try Belknap’s impeachment, and on that basis voted for acquittal. The fact that most of the senators at the time of Belknap agreed that it was not constitutional and acquitted Belknap on that basis is a poor argument for the constitutionality of Trump’s “trial.”

          The bottom line is this — The Senate, as a co-equal branch of government, may act a fool if they wish. As long as nothing comes of such folly, there is no need to actually consider whether their actions are constitution or not. So if the Senate wants to screw around with an impeachment trial that has no chance of actual constitutional consequences, the proper people to sit in judgment of their actions is…

          … wait for it…

          US!

          • Oops, correction. The Senate at the time DID vote that they had jurisdiction, I was wrong about that. But even so, the point remains that the two are sufficiently dissimilar that one cannot serve as a precedent for the other. Further, my main point is that the constitutionality of the matter has never been tested — The senate has agreed with many unconstitutional laws over the centuries, so their opinion of their own action is basically irrelevant — then and now.

            And in the end, my final point — that the Senate may play any silly partisan political games it pleases as long as there are no consequences under the constitution — remains.

    • Belknap confessed to corruption, and resigned from office in 1876. He was also acquitted by the Senate, and dodged an indictment later because President Grant directed the DA to dismiss the case, who agreed, because he thought the evidence wouldn’t get a conviction. The main point I think here is that the Senate voted itself jurisdiction even after Belknap had resigned. That might have flown in 1876, but a revenge impeachment in 2021? Plus arguably Belknap resigned in the hopes of avoiding the consequences of his actions. Trump did no such thing.

    • *Cough* That was also unconstitutional, and violating the Constitution once doesn’t amend the Constitution.
      *Cough* Belknap agreed that the Senate had jurisdiction, probably because he knew he wouldn’t be convicted, and thus could claim exoneration though he was guilty as hell.
      *Cough* Since he was not convicted, the Constitutionality issue was never raised or settled. The issue was moot. Presumably the same will happen here and now. That still won’t change the Constitution.
      *Cough* 1876, when the President who won the popular vote and the electoral vote was maneuvered out of the job by an extra-legal, unconstitutional deal. Bizarro World, in other words.

      A desperate and intellectually dishonest argument. Why can’t anti-Trump zealots still accept reality? They (you) would have more credibility if they did.

      • “Why can’t anti-Trump zealots still accept reality? ”

        Why indeed. The left was snarking long after GWB left office that he should be warming a prison cell for lying the US into a war. They were saying his dad should have been doing the same. I don’t hear too much about Reagan, maybe occasionally how dangerous he made things by placing short-range weapons in Europe, but his presidency predates the internet by too much. You don’t hear the right saying that Clinton should have been thrown in jail for perjury or that Obama should have to answer for criminal malfeasance. Maybe occasionally the right says that Carter should be jailed for Logan Act violations, but not too often. We on the right know that none of that stuff is going anywhere and that about half the time our guy isn’t going to win and we’ll have to put up with policies we don’t like. The left isn’t so good about that. As Charles Krauthammer, may he rest in peace, said, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

  7. I have always like Rand Paul, he is a true conservative and has always had the best health care solution which Trump was running with. That aside.

    Why haven’t the 45 Senators filed a lawsuit with the SCOTUS on this issue? Let the SCOTUS go on record for this as well, we need to identify the enemies of the Republic.

    Since most Senators are Attorneys they should also file an Ethics violation against them with the Bar Association of the State of record? Disbarring a few of them would send a strong message.

    The Ethical problem here is the Republicans do not apply the rules/laws to the Dems. Most of the Dems victories come from being very good at adhering to policy or tying things up in the courts. Time for the Republicans to stop complaining and crying foul and do something tangible with the tools at there disposal.

    • Sensei Mitch said:
      Why haven’t the 45 Senators filed a lawsuit with the SCOTUS on this issue? Let the SCOTUS go on record for this as well, we need to identify the enemies of the Republic.

      My guess would be twofold:

      First, I doubt the senators would have standing to pursue a Supreme Court case individually and even as a minority group. If the Senate is doing violence to the Constitution by holding a trial, then either the Senate (via a majority vote) or a co-equal branch of the government, or possibly a state, would be the appropriate party to bring the case.

      Second and perhaps more germane, the Supreme Court would doubtless be loath to decide on whether or not an impeachment proceeding was constitutional unless there were a harmed party by the action. In the instant case, unless Trump is convicted and subsequently disqualified, there is simply no harm to adjudicate. Without a live controversy, the Supreme Court would be seen, legitimately in my view, as interfering in a political affair. Historically the court has been very reluctant to inject its judgment into political matters, especially where no party has been actually harmed. Simply holding a political Kabuki Theater in the name of impeachment does no real violence to the document — only to the reputation of the Senate and its members.

      One could imagine that the Supreme Court has already evinced its disapproval by Chief Justice Roberts declining to preside over the trial, as the Constitution requires for impeachments of a President. Since there is no court case governing the impeachment of an ex-president, nor applicable precedent in history, one might presume, correctly in my view, that Roberts’ decision speaks volumes.

      Pure politics is not something the Court should care to deal with. Presumably, if a co-equal branch wants to beclown themselves, the rest of government is better off tut-tutting it and getting out of the way.

      • Glenn Logan,
        Piggy-backing on what you were saying, and WITHOUT DOING A SINGLE BIT OF RESEARCH, I would bet that the Supreme Court would abstain on the basis that it presents a political question. In other words, it is for the Senate, not the Courts, to decide how it will carry out its duties. However, if there is an actual conviction, the Court may have an issue that is ripe for review.
        -Jut

  8. Tangentially to this topic, what is the next recourse for when the day arrives that Congress, the Presidency AND the Courts all give a nod to the government engaging in unconstitutional malfeasance?

    Do the States have any recourse in checking such flaunting of the Constitution other than holding a Convention (which has to go through Congress, so, given the conditions would likely not fly)? Or would secession be their only option?

    If the States have few options, it would be down to the voters in the voting booth or worse.

    But, the Constitution ultimately means nothing if the voters stop believing in it.

    Say…I wonder if that’s why Leftist education has been in massive anti-Constitution assault mode for generations now…

    Almost intentional.

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