Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is urging Senate Democrat Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to not proceed with an impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, arguing it would be a gratuitous effort that would further divide the country.
In a letter to Schumer, the South Carolina senator said the impeachment power should only be used to protect the nation from harm from an incumbent president and not to vindicate political grievances after a president has left office.
Trump is scheduled to leave office on Jan. 20 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he has no plans to call Senate back to session early to begin an impeachment trial.
The Democrat-controlled House on Jan. 13 voted 232–197 to impeach Trump on a single article of impeachment, alleging that the president incited an “insurrection” that caused the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6. The impeachment was completed in a single seven-hour session and has been criticized by Republicans for its expediency and lack of due process.
“It cannot be that the Framers intended to empower Congress to disqualify any former officer it would like, whenever it would like, and with no investigation. And of course, they did not,” Graham wrote. “The two constitutional remedies for impeachment are available only when an official has been impeached by the constitutional impeachment process set forth in the Constitution.”
“The disqualification remedy is available for a constitutionally impeached official as an additional option to the Congress. It is not itself support for an unconstitutional impeachment,” he added.
The two provisions of the U.S. Constitution Graham referred to include Article II, Section 4, which states: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The second provision Article I, Section 3, Clause 7, states: “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.
Graham argues that a trial of a former president would not be a constitutional move by the Senate.
“If a Senate trial is not constitutional, then the remedy is unavailable to of disqualification the Congress as a punishment for the unconstitutionally impeached president,” he argued.
He said the Senate should vote to “dismiss the article of impeachment once it is received in the Senate,” adding that a failure to do so would delay indefinitely the heading of the United States.
“Our obligation to the People we represent is clear. History will judge us harshly, as it should, if we do not rise to the occasion of this historic moment in our history,” he wrote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to provide details on when Democrats’ plan to send the article of impeachment to the Senate.
“They’re now working on taking this to trial, and when they—you’ll be the first to know when we announce that we’re going over there,” Pelosi told reporters in Washington on Friday.
Schumer previously vowed in a statement after the impeachment vote that a trial for Trump will proceed and that the Senate will hold a vote to bar Trump from running for president again. He will soon take over as the upper house’s majority leader after Democrats won both Georgia Senate runoffs this month.