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Sen Tom Cotton argues the Senate lacks authority to hold trial once the president leaves office

What’s next in Trump’s impeachment? Sen Tom Cotton argues the Senate lacks authority to hold trial once the president leaves office and the soonest it could begin is 1pm on Biden’s inauguration day

  • Tom Cotton on Wednesday night issued a statement against impeachment
  • The Arkansas senator, a powerful conservative voice, said it was impossible
  • Cotton said Founding Fathers did not intend private citizens to be impeached
  • Mitch McConnell has confirmed the Senate will not impeach Trump as president
  • Constitutional scholars disagree if a president can be impeached on leaving
  • On Wednesday the House voted to impeach Trump for a second time 

Influential Arkansas senator Tom Cotton has said that he is against impeaching Donald Trump, arguing that the president cannot be impeached when he leaves office.

Cotton, a conservative hardliner and possible contender for the White House in 2024, issued a statement on Wednesday, after the House voted to impeach Trump for the second time.

The decision will now move to the Senate, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said earlier on Wednesday that their trial of the president will not begin until after the Senate returns from a recess scheduled to end on January 19.

Tom Cotton on Wednesday night announced he was not in favor of impeaching Trump

, Daily Echoed

Cotton, being sworn in to the new session of Congress on January 3, said the Founding Fathers did not permit impeachment of private citizens – which Trump will be on January 21

, Daily Echoed

The soonest the trial could begin would be 1pm on January 20 – the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

‘The Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president,’ said Cotton.

‘The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office – not an inquest against private citizens.’

Cotton’s coming out against impeachment may well convince some undecided Senators.

McConnell is believed to favor impeaching Trump, and has reportedly vowed never to speak to him again after he incited the mob to ransack the Capitol on January 6. McConnell has not publicly declared his intentions, however.

Cotton said that impeachment could not be done once a president had left office, and that proceeding with the trial before then was impossible.

‘The House has passed an article of impeachment against the president, but the Senate under its rules and precedents cannot start and conclude a fair trial before the president leaves office next week,’ he said.

, Daily Echoed

Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday afternoon signed Trump’s impeachment after the House vote

Constitutional scholars disagree on whether a trial can be held once a president has stepped down.


Wednesday afternoon: House passed single Article

What happens next? Nancy Pelosi decides when to transmit Article to Senate. When she does, it must begin trial on the next sitting day and sit six days a week until it concludes 

Tuesday January 19:  Earliest date Mitch McConnell has said Senate can begin considering Article. Senate procedures may mean trial will not begin until the following day at 1pm

Wednesday January 20, noon: Trump leaves office

What happens next? If a trial is under way, it can continue. Most legal experts say if it has not begun, it can, but there is a minority who say impeachment cannot continue if the president is not in office

J. Michael Luttig, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit from 1991 to 2006, argued in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday that a Senate trial after Trump has left office would be unconstitutional.

Other officials have been impeached after leaving office in the past, but none were presidents.

The Senate voted to dismiss some of those cases on the basis that the subjects were no longer holding their positions.

In 1876 former Secretary of War William Belknap resigned just before his impeachment. The Senate held a trial and acquitted him anyway.

On Wednesday the House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump a second time, with 10 Republican lawmakers voting in favor of the article.

The article of impeachment charges Trump with having ‘repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud’ and incited a crowd that ‘unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel’ and ‘menaced members of Congress.’

Cotton condemned the violence and said rioters should be fully prosecuted.

But the Arkansas Senator said: ‘fidelity to the Constitution must always remain the lodestar of our nation.’

‘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.’

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