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2020 election

Cotton: Senate Lacks Authority to Impeach After Trump Leaves Office



Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) announced Wednesday after the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump that he is against moving forward with the impeachment process in the Senate because the Senate “lacks the constitutional authority” to remove a former president.

Cotton expressed his opposition to impeachment proceedings in a statement Wednesday evening after the House voted that afternoon to impeach Trump a second time, passing one article of impeachment, 232–197, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” over last week’s riot in the U.S. Capitol.

“The Senate under its rules and precedents cannot start and conclude a fair trial before the president leaves office next week,” Cotton explained. “Under these circumstances, the Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president”:

Cotton’s statement coincides with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stating, after the impeachment article was passed, that it would not be feasible for the Senate to conduct an impeachment trial prior to Trump’s term ending on January 20.

McConnell has said the earliest date the Senate could receive the article to begin the process of a trial would be January 19, and even then, the proceedings would not begin until 1:00 p.m. the following day, after Trump has left office. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact,” McConnell stated Wednesday, reaffirming the schedule he outlined last week.

Cotton, in his statement, emphasized his priority on “fidelity to the Constitution,” explaining that “the Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office—not an inquest against private citizens.”

“The Constitution presupposes an office from which an impeached officeholder can be removed,” he said.

Notably, Cotton was the first Republican senator supportive of Trump to come out against challenging the electoral college, again citing the Constitution and arguing that its intent was for the states to run the election, not Congress.

“Fidelity to the Constitution must always remain the lodestar for our nation,” Cotton said. “Last week, I opposed the effort to reject certified electoral votes for the same reason—fidelity to the Constitution—I now oppose impeachment proceedings against a former president.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].




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