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US Senate moving forward with second Trump impeachment trial despite GOP opposition

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate faced its first test with former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial on Tuesday when lawmakers tabled a motion dismissing the proceedings as unconstitutional.

The Senate voted 55-45 to move forward with the trial, in which 45 Republicans voted against taking up the case. The vote happened after senators took oaths to be impartial jurors.

While the trial will start during the week of Feb. 8, Tuesday’s vote raises doubts about the likelihood of the Senate convicting Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 riot, in which five people died.

For the Senate to convict Trump, 67 senators will have to vote Trump is guilty of encouraging supporters to storm the Capitol. The Senate is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker if necessary.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., proposed the motion. Following the vote, he described the case as “dead on arrival.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined Democratic colleagues in supporting the trial. Five Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Utah’s Mitt Romney, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey — also backed continuing with the proceedings.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted alongside a majority of her Republican colleagues.

Capito previously told MetroNews it is unsettled if a trial can proceed after an impeached person leaves office. She said Tuesday the impeachment process was designed to address issues involving officeholders when they are in power.

“The Constitution does not give Congress the power to impeach a private citizen,” she said in a statement.

“This charge is directed at an individual who no longer holds public office. I believe it is time we focus our attention and energies on the numerous challenges our country presently faces. Instead of taking a path of divisiveness, let us heed the call to unity that we have heard spoken so often over the past few weeks.”

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on Jan. 13, a week before he left the White House. West Virginia’s House members — Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller — opposed impeaching Trump for a second time.

Congress has impeached one federal official after they left office; the House in March 1876 passed five articles of impeachment against William Belknap for his actions as secretary of war. The chamber approved the charges following Belknap’s resignation the same day.

None of the Senate’s votes met the two-thirds requirement to convict Belknap, resulting in his acquittal.

Trump is the third president to be impeached and the first former president whose trial happened after their tenure. He is also the first president impeached twice.

Toomey argued the Senate has the authority to proceed with the trial.

“In my view, the text and context of the Constitution, the meaning of the term ‘impeachment’ to the founders, and the most relevant precedents indicate that it is constitutionally permissible for the Senate to consider the impeachment of President Trump,” he said in a statement.

Toomey previously said Trump could face “criminal liability” for the violence.

House managers and the former president’s defense team have until Feb. 2 to submit a pretrial brief and response to the article respectively. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has stated senators will conduct other business in the meantime.

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