WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Former President Donald Trump will again face an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate next week.
While Democrats — who now hold narrow control of both chambers of Congress — have forged ahead with the proceedings, many Republicans insist it is unconstitutional because Trump has left office.
“We’ll see if it will be a Senate of courage or cowards,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday.
The lone article of impeachment passed by the House last month accuses Trump of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“We were the eyewitnesses to what happened,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
But Republicans say it’s not that simple.
“He is out of office. He is a private citizen,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said. “I do worry about the precedents this sets.”
She said there are other remedies.
“There’s no constitutional authority to do this (hold an impeachment trial),” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said. “It is dangerous to try and weaponize the impeachment process.”
Both admit Trump made mistakes, with Ernst saying he “exhibited poor leadership,” and Hawley calling his words “inflammatory,” “irresponsible” and “wrong.”
Hawley has also faced criticism for challenging Electoral College votes that were cast in favor of President Joe Biden. The certification of those votes was delayed as the mob stormed the Capitol.
Durbin and Democrats argue the trial can go forward even though Trump is out of office.
“The fact that President Trump is no longer in office does not change things,” Durbin said. “I want to put the evidence on the record once and for all, for this generation and future generations, as to what actually occurred.”
Experts have debated whether the Constitution allows for an impeachment trial after a member of government has left office, though many lean toward the interpretation that it does. There is precedent for that: While no president has ever been tried after leaving office, but other members of the executive branch have.
A briefing filed this week by Trump’s legal team denies he was responsible for the riot. His attorneys say they will make their case without in-person testimony from Trump himself.
Oral arguments are expected to begin Tuesday.
Seventeen Republicans would have to abandon the party line to reach the two-thirds majority required to convict.