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With Impeachment Trial Looming, Hoosier Republicans Send Mixed Signals

(U.S. Senate)

The U.S. Senate will vote next week for the second time on whether to convict former President Donald Trump.  

Trump was impeached Jan. 13 by the house for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 US Capitol insurrection.

A Senate conviction could bar Trump from running for public office again. Trump’s legal team has argued he cannot be impeached because he no longer holds office. The team also continues to reiterate false claims that he won the election. 

Senate Democrats are expected to vote in favor of convicting, but whether they’ll secure the votes from 17 Republicans is unknown. Sixty-seven senators must vote to for Trump to be convicted.

Indiana Sen. Todd Young said this week that he will listen to both sides but that he questions the constitutionality of holding a trial for a president who has left office.

“It’s ambiguous,” he said during a call with reporters this week. “It was written ambiguously, but there are serious legal questions as I enter what we now know will be a trial, and those will be briefed before us.”

Paul Helmke, the former Republican mayor of Ft. Wayne and professor at IU’s O’Neil School, believes the Constitution is clear. He asserts former office holders can be barred from holding office.

“Once you have removed someone from office, they are by definition, a former officeholder,” he said. “If a year ago, the Senate had convicted him, and removed him from office, they then could have voted on whether to disqualify him from holding office in the future.”

Helmke says  a public official immediately becomes a private citizen when they are removed from office Barring them from running again is a separate conviction that likely takes place after removal from office.

That’s a point Trump and his attorneys are expected to rebut.

Young echoed statements from Trump’s legal brief, submitted earlier this week, claiming the former President is a private citizen, thus not able to be impeached.

“I’m hearing that President Trump is now a private citizen,” Young said. “There are other avenues for those who want to hold him to certain charges, there are other venues for that.”

Helmke sees it differently, and insists courts can’t bar a citizen from running for office.  

“If there's a concern that because of what he's done, particularly around the Jan. 6 events, makes him a future danger. The only way to bar Trump from possibly getting back into office is to take this step,” Helmke said.  

While there are other avenues that could keep Trump from seeking public office, Helmke believes this has the clearest precedent.

If all Senate Democrats vote to convict, 17 Republicans would need to join them to result in conviction.  Then, the Senate could decide to bar him from running again.  

Helmke doubts that will happen but says he would vote to convict.

“I think a lot of them will just take it easy, escape, and say, gee, you know, I don't like what Trump did or you know, we don't know for sure,” he said. “So, I think they'll try the procedural dodge.”

Helmke believes too many in his own party are afraid of the threat of primary opponents or upsetting Trump’s base. That comes despite the broad rebuke Trump has faced in recent weeks after being removed from many social media channels.

“I think there are a lot of elected officials on the Republican side that are still afraid of Donald Trump and afraid of him stirring up their voters,” Helmke said. “This way, they can sort of vote on Trump's side, but without saying that they necessarily defend what happened on January 6.”

Young denied threats of a primary opponent played any role in his decision.

Indiana’s other Republican Senator, Mike Braun, who has embraced unverified election fraud claims from the 2020 election, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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