Alaska senators split on constitutionality of impeaching Trump

Former president is accused of insurrection in Jan. 6 assault on U.S. Capitol

Then President Donald Trump disembarks Marine One at Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas. (Jan. 12, 2021) Photo courtesy of Shealah Craighead/The White House

Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan split their vote on Tuesday, Feb. 9, as the U.S. Senate voted 56-44 on the first day of the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

Trump is accused of inciting an insurrection for his role in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, in which the mob breached security barriers and entered the Capitol, resulting in massive damage that sent members of Congress fleeing for their lives and left five people dead and numerous others injured.

The trial began just over a year after Trump was acquitted of high crimes and misdemeanors in his first impeachment trial.

The two Alaska Republicans voiced their differing opinions on the constitutionality of the impeachment of the former president of the United States.

To convict Trump the Senate would need at least 17 Republicans on the side of the two-third majority needed.

“While the Constitution does not speak directly to the issue of impeachment of a former president, the Senate is given the ‘sole power to try all impeachments’ and the power to ‘determine the rule of its own proceedings,’” said Murkowski, who voted with the majority. “These two provisions give the Senate wide discretion when deciding whether and how to hold a trial of impeachment.

“Moreover, the Senate should want to retain that authority,” she said. “The American people should also want it to do so. If a civil officer could escape any punishment simply by resigning office, the impeachment power would be rendered toothless. If the end of a president’s term meant he or she would never be held politically liable for high crimes or misdemeanors committed while in office, the lame-duck period would pose a serious danger to the stability of the country.”

Sullivan countered that framers of the Constitution feared, as he does, “the weaponization of impeachment as a regular tool of partisan warfare.”

“If that were to happen – partisan impeachment every few years – it would incapacitate our government, undermine the legitimacy of our institutions and tear our country apart for decades to come,” said the senator, who voted against continuing the trial.

Sullivan said that an impeachment trial “is supposed to be the last resort to protect the American people against the highest crimes that undermine or threaten the foundations of our republic, not to get rid of a president because a faction of one political party disagrees with the way he governs. That’s what elections are for.”

Only six Republican senators including Murkowski, voted with Democrats to clear the way for the impeachment trial to go on, an indication that Trump is likely to be acquitted on charges of inciting the mob violence.