March 2, 2021

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GOP Sen. Rob Portman says Trump impeachment trial post-presidency could set a dangerous precedent – CNBC

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Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told CNBC why he joined 44 other Republicans to reject the constitutionality of impeaching former President Donald Trump. 

“I think the Constitutional issue needs to be addressed and not tabled and not set aside, and so as a juror I’m going to be listening to both sides, but we have to address the Constitutional issue and the precedent that this would set, so if you look at the Constitution … it’s about removal, and this is a private citizen now, Donald Trump, not president,” said Portman during a pre-taped interview Thursday evening on “The News with Shepard Smith.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul led the charge to rebuff the procedure’s constitutionality. First, on the grounds that Trump is no longer in office and, second, given the fact that the Senate’s president pro tempore Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. 

Roberts presided over Trump’s first impeachment trial, but he won’t reprise the role a second time. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York told MSNBC’S Rachel Maddow Show on Monday that the decision to preside was up to Roberts.

“The Constitution says the Chief Justice presides for a sitting president,” said Schumer. “So that is not going to be — so it was up to John Roberts whether he wanted to preside with a president who’s no longer sitting, Trump. And he doesn’t want to do it.”

Portman told host Shepard Smith that he was worried about the precedent this impeachment trial could create. 

“Think of the precedent of saying that Republicans could go after President Obama or President Clinton or Democrats could go after George W. Bush as a private citizen,” Portman said.  

Portman had previously stated that Trump “bears some responsibility” for the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. He did not support Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, and he voted to uphold certified election results on Jan. 6 and delayed the count.

Smith pressed Portman on what he thought an appropriate punishment for Trump would be. 

“One appropriate consequence is people to speak out, as I have very clearly, before, frankly, and during, and after, and I think that’s important, also, that the House has acted, so there has been consequence in that way,” said Portman.

Portman announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election next year but will serve out his term that ends on Jan.  3, 2023. He said that he “will not miss the politics and the partisanship, and that’s gotten more difficult over time.”

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