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'The trial is stupid': Senate Republicans throw cold water on Trump impeachment

Speaking on "Meet the Press," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., called the impeachment trial "a moot point."
Image: Senate panel holds confirmation hearing for Biden's U.S. spy chief choice
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to Avril Haines during her confirmation hearing to be President Joe Biden's national intelligence director on Jan. 19, 2021.Joe Raedle / Pool via Reuters

Several Republican senators Sunday discouraged suggestions that the chamber could convict former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.

"Well first of all, I think the trial is stupid," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think it's counterproductive. We already have a flaming fire in this country, and [impeachment is] taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire."

Rubio said that he believes Trump "bears responsibility for some of what happened" during the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol this month but that he does not believe impeachment is the right way to address the matter. He also said it would be "arrogant" to say Trump should be barred from running for federal office again.

"The first chance I get to vote to end this trial, I will do it, because I think it's bad for America," he said. "If you want to hold people accountable, there's other ways to do it, particularly for a president."

Rubio said a trial will "make it harder to get important things done, and it's just going to continue to fuel these divisions that have paralyzed the country and have turned us into a country of people that hate each other."

Speaking on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., called the trial "a moot point."

"Because I think right now Donald Trump is no longer the president. He is former president," Rounds said, adding that he does not believe the impeachment of a former president is constitutionally viable and that a trial will take away from other agenda items for the Senate, including the confirmation of President Joe Biden's Cabinet.

A recent Congressional Research Service report noted that although the Constitution does not explicitly say whether a former president can be impeached, scholars "who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Friday that a trial would begin in early February under an agreement struck between Democrats and Republicans. To convict Trump, at least 17 Republicans would have to join all of the Democrats. If he is convicted, the Senate could then weigh whether to prohibit Trump from a future bid for office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has forcefully criticized Trump after the riot, has said he is undecided about whether to convict Trump. Meanwhile, Republicans like McConnell or the handful of House GOP members who voted to impeach Trump have faced heavy backlash from conservatives.

During a news conference Sunday, Schumer said that the trial will be "fair" and that "it will move relatively quickly and not take up too much time, because we have so much else to do, but at the same time it will be fair."

"Mitch McConnell will not dictate to the Senate what we should do and how we should proceed," he said.

In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., refused to say that the election was not stolen from Trump — the sentiment that led to the Jan. 6 assault in the first place. For months, Trump and his allies made false claims about widespread voter fraud and other election integrity issues.

Paul pledged to spend the next two years investigating the election, and he said he "won’t be cowed by liberals in the media who say there's no evidence here and you're a liar if you talk about election fraud."

On "Meet the Press," Rounds said that while he believes "the election was fair," he supports investigating to "show it to the American people."

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he will decide how to vote in the trial after he is presented with the case. Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial last year.

He said that he believes it's "pretty clear" that a post-presidential impeachment is constitutional and that it was appropriate for Trump to be impeached.

"I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense," he said. "If not, what is?"

On "This Week," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., pointed to the 1876 impeachment trial of Secretary of War William Belknap — who was tried after he resigned — as a precedent.

"I think we're going to get more and more evidence over the next few weeks — as if it's not enough that he's sent an angry mob down [the National Mall] to invade the Capitol, didn't try to stop it and a police officer was killed," Klobuchar said. "I don't really know what else you need to know. The facts were there. We saw it right there on the platform during the inauguration, as you could still see the spray paint at the bottom of many of the columns."