WASHINGTON — US Democrats’ efforts to convict Donald Trump at his impeachment trial suffered a fresh blow Tuesday when almost all Republican senators backed dismissing the case, underlining the former president’s continuing hold over the party.
The motion failed after all 50 Democrats and only five Republicans in the Senate did not support the push to throw out the case before the trial has begun.
The result confirmed Democrats will struggle to persuade 17 Republican senators — the number needed for the required two-thirds majority — to vote to convict Trump.
The motion came after Rand Paul, Republican senator from Kentucky, raised a point of order to hold a vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial in light of the fact that Trump has left office.
Democrats then called for a vote to kill the point of order, winning 55-45.
Paul said afterward “that 45 Senators agreed that this sham of a ‘trial’ is unconstitutional… This ‘trial’ is dead on arrival in the Senate.”
The House of Representatives presented a single article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday accusing Trump of inciting the storming of the Capitol earlier this month, setting in motion the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.
The trial of Trump, who was impeached by the Democratic-majority House for an unprecedented second time, is to begin the week of February 8. The House impeached him January 13, just a week after the deadly insurrection in which five people died.
What seemed for some Democrats like an open-and-shut case that played out for the world on live television is running into a Republican Party that feels very different. Not only do senators say they have legal concerns, but they are wary of crossing the former president and his legions of followers.
It’s unclear if any Republicans would vote to convict Trump on the actual charge of incitement after voting in favor of Paul’s effort to declare it unconstitutional.
Many Republicans have criticized Trump’s role in the attack — before which he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat — but most of them have rushed to defend him in the trial.
The five Republicans who voted with Democrats Tuesday to allow the trial to proceed were Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — all recent critics of the former president and his effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said Trump “provoked” the riots and indicated he is open to conviction, voted with Paul to move toward dismissing the trial.