As the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump got under way on Tuesday, his lawyers were relying on an argument that questions the constitutionality of this exercise. The head of the Constitutional Studies Center for the Independence Institute, Rob Natelson, recently raised serious doubts that what the congressional Democrats were trying to do was actually allowed within the framework of the U.S. Constitution.
Natelson argued that records show that any time the Founding Fathers discussed impeachment, it was always in reference to a sitting president. The discussions never involved the possibility of convicting a president who had already left the office. Additionally, the wording of the Constitution also assumes that the person on trial is currently in office.
Other Objections to the Trial
In addition to the issue of constitutionality, there are objections surrounding the appropriate punishment if the Senate has the votes to convict Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection. There is the question of whether Trump received due process when Congress rushed to submit the article of impeachment just one week after the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol.
The former law professor also asserts that Trump’s actions on January 6 do not meet the level of sedition or any other offense that could be considered for formal impeachment.
A Numbers Game
Senators on Tuesday voted 56-44 that they have the constitutional authority to move forward with the trial.
However, as Natelson reminded the country, it would take a two-thirds majority to convict Trump. This means that a minimum of 17 Republicans would need to cross to the other side of the aisle, an outcome that is not likely in this time of partisan politics.