A top conservative constitutional lawyer argued that former President Donald Trump can stand trial for his impeachment case. In an opinion piece, conservative lawyer Charles “Chuck” J. Cooper dismissed GOP claims that it’s unconstitutional to try a former president.
Unconstitutional To Impeach Trump
The House filed an article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” in connection with the January 6 Capitol riots. Since the riots, the GOP leadership made little effort to defend what happened. Instead, they argued that Trump, who already left office, shouldn’t need to face a trial. They said that the Constitution’s penalty for a conviction is removal from office. Since Trump already left office, the rule can’t apply to him.
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When the House sent the impeachment to the Senate, Republican Senator Rand Paul (KY), raised a point of order challenging the trial’s constitutionality, forcing a vote. 45 Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY). McConnell already said he believed that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses, but did side with Paul. However, the point of order lost in the voting, 55-45. It did send a foreshadowing of how the impeachment trial will turn out.
Cooper, who closely allies himself with top Congressional Republicans, said that Paul misread the Constitution. “The provision cuts against their interpretation,” he wrote. Then, he argued that “it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders” if the Constitution allows the Senate to bar officials convicted of impeachable offenses from holding public office again in the future.
The esteemed lawyer said that the provision cuts against the GOP interpretation. It simply establishes a “mandatory minimum” punishment: If an incumbent officeholder is convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, he is removed from office as a matter of law. However, if removal is the only punishment, then trying former officers wouldn’t hold. According to Cooper, it isn’t. He said that Article I, Section 3 authorizes the Senate to impose an optional punishment on conviction. It also prescribes the additional punishment of “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.” This only applies only to former officers.
More than his argument, Cooper’s opinion goes against the grain with his Congressional allies. He is known as a close confidant and adviser to Congressional Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz (TX) and Representative Kevin McCarthy (CA). Also, he worked as a lawyer for conservative stalwarts like former NSA advisor John R. Bolton and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In addition, also defended California’s same-sex marriage ban and worked on behalf of the National Rifle Association. Now, he’s taking the opposite side of his Republican clients and confidants.
Sources say that Cooper’s opinion piece was a result of his dismay over the GOP’s inaction against Trump. In addition, it’s not yet known if this can have any influence on the Republican senators who have yet to decide on Trump’s fate. Many senators said their agreement with Paul’s point of order did not mean opposition to hearing the case. In order to convict Trump, a total of 17 Republicans need to side with all 50 Democrats to provide the ⅔ majority.
Cooper himself thinks he is changing minds. He wrote in his opinion piece that since the vote, “the serious weakness of Mr. Paul’s analysis” continues to erode as legal experts’ understanding of the issue evolves. “The senators who supported Mr. Paul’s motion should reconsider their view and judge the former president’s misconduct on the merits,” he wrote.
Watch the ABC News video where Senator Chuck Schumer announces the Trump Impeachment trial:
Do you agree with lawyer Chuck Cooper that former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is not unconstitutional? Or, do you still think it doesn’t make sense to impeach Trump at this point? Share with us your thoughts and comments about the matter.