Prominent Senate Republican warns Trump trial could spark more impeachments

Former President Donald Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A prominent US Senate Republican warned on Saturday (Jan 23) that former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial could lead to the prosecution of former Democratic presidents if Republicans retake the chamber in two years.

"If it is a good idea to impeach and try former Presidents, what about former Democratic Presidents when Republicans get the majority in 2022? Think about it and let's do what is best for the country," Senator John Cornyn, a 19-year veteran of the Senate, said in a Twitter post directed at Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Mr Trump this month became the first US president to be impeached twice after the Democratic-controlled House, with the support of 10 Republicans, voted to charge him with incitement of insurrection for a fiery Jan 6 speech to his followers before they launched a deadly assault on the Capitol.

After a brief moment of bipartisan sentiment in which members from both parties condemned the unprecedented attack on Congress as it met to formalise President Joe Biden's victory, a number of Senate Republicans are opposing Mr Trump's trial, which could lead to a vote blocking him from future office.

Democrats hold narrow majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate, and it is common for the incumbent president's party to lose seats in the mid-term elections two years after a presidential contest.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said the mob was "provoked" by Mr Trump.

But other Senate Republicans say that trying Mr Trump while out of office would be unconstitutional and further divide the country.

The Kentucky Republican Party's state central committee rejected a resolution on Saturday that urged Mr McConnell to fully support Mr Trump and condemn his impeachment, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

The committee voted 134-49 to uphold a ruling that the resolution was out of order, the paper said.

The party's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are concerns on both sides of the aisle that the trial could distract from Mr Biden's legislative agenda.

Mr Schumer, who became Senate majority leader this week, said on Friday the impeachment trial would start the week of Feb 8.

That will give both sides time to prepare while the Senate works to confirm Mr Biden's Cabinet and enact a new Covid-19 relief package, he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.