Fox News anchor Chris Wallace confronted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over his assertion that it’s unconstitutional to impeach former President Donald Trump, pointing out on Sunday that there is precedent for impeaching an official who’s left office.
During an interview with the Kentucky senator on Fox News Sunday, Wallace first pressed the Republican lawmaker over the growing conservative talking point that Democrats have used heated rhetoric in the past so the former president should get a pass for inciting an insurrectionist riot.
After airing a montage of Trump’s comments during his “Stop the Steal” speech before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which featured the ex-president calling on his supporters to walk down to the Capitol and “fight” for him, the anchor pressed Paul on whether Trump’s speech was acceptable.
“Senator, you talk about other people who have said things, but you know, here there had been weeks of misrepresentations about the election,” the veteran newsman said. “Then he called people to come to Washington. Then he talks about fighting like hell. People in the crowd are talking about going to the Capitol and then they demand to find Speaker Pelosi and to hang Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States. Is that not incitement for insurrection?”
While Paul said he didn’t “condone any of the language” and that he also opposed his colleagues’ efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory, he went on to say that he expects Trump’s impeachment defense will play clips of remarks made by Democrats such as Rep. Maxine Waters (R-CA) and Sen, Cory Booker (D-NJ) urging constituents to confront Republicans.
“I think you’re going to see all of this and people are going to have to judge for themselves,” Paul insisted. “Are we going to impeach and potentially criminally prosecute people for political speech when they say ‘get up and fight for your country, let your voices be heard?’ Has nobody in this country heard of figure of speech?”
“You could argue his position was wrong and it was misguided,” the Kentucky lawmaker added. “I accept all of that, but for going to criminalize his speech, you have to do it with the same standard. You can’t just criminalize Republican speech and ignore all the Democrats who have incited violence.”
Wallace then turned to Paul’s argument that Trump cannot be prosecuted by the Senate for inciting last month’s seditious riot because he’s no longer in the White House. Noting that Paul proposed a Senate motion contending Trump’s impeachment was unconstitutional and therefore he cannot be subject to a Senate trial, the Fox News moderator brought up the counterargument to that.
“The other side argues that under that standard, a president could abuse his power, quit at the last minute,” Wallace pointed out, adding: “The Senate would be unable to touch him under your standard.”
Paul retorted that Trump can still be prosecuted in a court of law before once again asserting that a former president cannot be convicted in an impeachment trial.
“We’ve had a country for 250 years and every other Congress thought it was unwise to keep, you know, going after an ex-president,” he declared. “Constitutional scholars have said the Constitution says you impeach and disqualify. If the person isn’t there to impeach, you can’t do either one of them.”
Wallace quickly interjected, exclaiming: “That’s not quite true.”
He would then go on and point to Secretary of War William Belknap, who was tried by the Senate in 1876 over a corruption scandal even though he had resigned prior to the House impeaching him.
“Isn’t that 1876 case of William Belknap a solid precedent?” Wallace wondered aloud.
Paul, for his part, disagreed because “we never impeached the president” after leaving office, adding that it “would tear up the country” and cause further divisions. He then called on President Joe Biden to tell the Democratic Party that “enough is enough” that it’s time to “move on.”
While recent polls had shown that Americans are divided on impeachment, an ABC News poll released Sunday reveals that 56 percent of the public now feel that Trump should be convicted and barred from ever holding office again, a nine-point increase from last month.