Divisions Harden in Senate as It Prepares to Receive Impeachment Article

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Sunday burrowed into dueling positions over the impending impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, deepening the schisms in an already divided Senate a day before the House will deliver its charge to lawmakers there.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial, said on Sunday that he believed the former president had committed an impeachable offense, and that the effort to try him even after he left office was constitutional.

“I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense,” Mr. Romney said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “If not, what is?”

But even as Mr. Romney signaled his openness to convicting Mr. Trump, other Senate Republicans made clear that they opposed even the idea of a trial and would try to dismiss the charge before it began. Taken together, the comments underscored the rift that the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the ensuing fallout have created in the Republican conference, as senators weighed whether they would pay a steeper political price for breaking with the former president or for failing to.

Though the House will transmit the article of impeachment on Monday, Senate leaders agreed on Friday to delay the trial for two weeks, giving President Biden time to install his cabinet and Mr. Trump’s team time to prepare a defense. But the plan also guarantees that the trial will dominate Mr. Biden’s crucial first days in office, and it could inflame partisan tensions even as the president is pushing a message of unity.

Some Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have grown increasingly worried that if they do not intervene to distance themselves from Mr. Trump, their ties to the former president could hurt the party’s political fortunes for years. Others, skirting the question of whether Mr. Trump committed an impeachable offense, have argued that holding a Senate trial for a president who has already left office would be unconstitutional, and would further divide the nation.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, called holding a trial “stupid” and “counterproductive,” likening it to “taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.”

“The first chance I get to vote to end this trial," he said, “I’ll do it because I think it’s really bad for America.”

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, Mr. Rubio compared the transition of power to that of President Richard M. Nixon.

“In hindsight, I think we would all agree that President Ford’s pardon was important for the country to be able to move forward,” Mr. Rubio said, “and history held Richard Nixon quite accountable for what he did as a result.”

Asked if he thought Mr. Trump had committed an impeachable offense, Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, called it “a moot point” and argued that pursuing an impeachment trial against a former president would be both unconstitutional and a waste of time.

“If we start working on an impeachment, which it looks like we’re going to end up doing, we’ve only got a couple of weeks here in which to work actually through and allow this president an opportunity to form a cabinet,” Mr. Rounds said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “A lot of us would prefer to maybe work through those issues instead.”

The Trump Impeachment ›

From Riot to Impeachment

The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout:

    • As this video shows, poor planning and a restive crowd encouraged by Mr. Trump set the stage for the riot.
    • A two hour period was crucial to turning the rally into the riot.
    • Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
    • Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
    • The House voted to impeach the president on charges of “inciting an insurrection” that led to the rampage by his supporters.

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