Why is Rand Paul leaving Congress

The content-related part of the impeachment process has not even started yet. So far there have been no arguments from the Democratic prosecutors, there have been no arguments from Donald Trump's defense lawyers. The Senate will not meet for two weeks to determine whether the former US president is guilty of incitement to insurrection. These are the indictments the House of Representatives brought against Trump after the attack on the Capitol.

And yet it is already foreseeable that the second impeachment proceedings against the now-elected president will most likely end like the first: with an acquittal for Trump. This emerges from an initial vote on the matter on Tuesday: After the 100 senators took the oath to act as an impartial jury, they discussed a motion from Rand Paul. The Kentucky Republican Senator has called for the impeachment process to be declared unconstitutional.

The result of the vote says a lot about how the mood among the Republicans towards Trump has changed - or how it has not changed. The application was rejected by 55 to 45 votes. But that also means that only five Republicans voted with the closed Democrats to even carry out a trial. For a condemnation of Trump - and a related ban on ever holding a political office - the Democrats need at least 17 Republican votes.

Trump is now no longer president, but a private person, and the constitution does not provide for impeachment proceedings against private individuals, Paul said. "An impeachment is intended to remove someone from office. The accused has already left his office." After seeing that 45 Republicans had voted for his motion, the Senator cheered that the process was "dead on arrival" - in other words, over before it even started.

There are some indications that Paul is correct in his assessment. The vote on the application is not binding. Any Republican Senator who voted in the first step to declare the process unconstitutional can theoretically at the end of the process come to the conclusion that Trump must still be found guilty. However, this required gross mental contortions. It looks much more like Trump can rely on great support in his party - despite everything.

The pressure on the Republican senators is enormous

The only Republicans whose vote signaled that they would at least not exclude a conviction of Trump from the outset were Senators Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey. However, one of the 45 Republicans who voted for Paul's motion was Mitch McConnell. The minority leader had sharply criticized Trump after the attack on the Capitol and blamed him for the mob that had tried in Trump's name to stop the formal confirmation of Joe Biden's election victory. McConnell also leaked through the media that he might be ready to condemn Trump. This now seems highly questionable.

The Democrats reject the argument that there cannot be impeachment proceedings against an already resigned president. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), Parliament's independent scientific service, tends to agree with them. The passages on impeachment in the constitution made no explicit statement as to whether a former president could be indicted and convicted, writes the CRS in a recent statement. Most constitutional lawyers are of the opinion that Congress has this right.

There has never been an impeachment case against a former president. But there is an indirect precedent: In 1876, William Belknap, Secretary of War for President Ulysses Grant, resigned because of a corruption scandal. Even so, he was charged by the House of Representatives and faced a trial in the Senate.

What is certain is that the question offers Republicans a welcome opportunity to address something other than Trump's behavior: his weeks of lying about a stolen election, his pressure on Republican officials to overturn the election result - and his call to his supporters to Congress to pull. The Democratic prosecutors want to condense all of this at the trial in two weeks and present it to the senators.

It is doubtful whether they will still make a difference. To see what the conservative base expects from their elected officials in Washington, a look at Oregon helps. There, the state's Republican Party declared the ten Republican MPs who had voted in the House of Representatives to indict Trump to be "traitors" in a resolution. The storming of the Capitol was a "false flag operation" allegedly aimed at discrediting Trump's supporters.

So the pressure on the Republican senators: enormous. The prospects for the Democrats of finding enough votes for a condemnation: gloomy. And all of this, although the process has not even started properly.