Oklahoma Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, both Republican, voted Tuesday against proceeding with a Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Lankford and Inhofe were on the losing side of a 55-45 vote on a procedural point of order raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to declare the trial of a former president unconstitutional.
"This is not a trial; this is political theater," Lankford said in a statement. "You cannot remove someone from office who is already out of office. In this trial there is no current President, no Chief Justice and no possibility someone could be removed from office because they are not in any office. In a moment when our nation needs to unite, this trial will only create even deeper divisions.”
Lankford was one of the Senate Republicans who originally intended to object to the legitimate electoral victory of then-President-elect Joe Biden at a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6. After the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters who believed lies about a "stolen election," Lankford withdrew his objection.
"Given that the penalty for impeachment shall be removal from office, my plain reading of the Constitution leads me to believe that the Founders did not intend for us to impeach and try former federal office holders," Inhofe said in a statement. "Therefore, I agree with Sen. Paul’s point of order because it is not constitutionally permissible to try a former president.”
Democrats and scholars of constitutional law have argued the impeachment trial is not unconstitutional. The failure of Paul's point of order means the trial will begin as scheduled in February.
Inhofe and Lankford split on another vote on Tuesday. Antony Blinken was confirmed by a vote of 78-22 as Biden's secretary of state. Inhofe voted in favor of the confirmation, while Lankford opposed.
“I strongly oppose Tony Blinken’s nomination for Secretary of State because he brings the same failed foreign policy strategy from a decade ago that put us in a weak position with nations like Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, and other bad actors," Lankford said in a statement. "As we confront a rise in cyber threats, election tampering by foreign adversaries, increased nuclear proliferation, and numerous human rights violations in these nations, I believe now more than ever we need to approach our foreign policy from a position of strength and decisive leadership, not go backwards toward appeasement. Our foreign policy should affirm American values and America’s unique place of leadership in the world.”