GOP Senator threatens to block Biden cabinet confirmations if Democrats push ahead with impeachment

Mr Johnson said Democrats have to choose between 'being vindictive or staffing administration to keep nation safe’

Gustaf Kilander
Raleigh, NC
Friday 22 January 2021 20:49 GMT
Related video: Chuck Todd confronts GOP 'election truther' Senator Ron Johnson

Wisconsin Senator and staunch Trump supporter Ron Johnson suggested that the senate may not confirm President Biden's cabinet nominees if the Democrats go ahead with a second impeachment trial for former president Donald Trump.

Mr Johnson said Democrats have to choose between "being vindictive or staffing the administration to keep the nation safe".

A significant contingent of senate Republicans have argued that an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional and shouldn't take place at all, but new Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been steadfast in his commitment to holding a trial. 

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pushed for delaying the trial to February to allow Mr Trump and his legal team to prepare their defence.

Mr Johnson said that a trial of a former president would "set a very dangerous precedent" and that there's "no provision in the Constitution for holding such a trial over a former president who is now a private citizen".

Mr Johnson asked why it would be "right to preemptively disenfranchise voters and overrule the states?" alluding to the fact that the senate could vote to bar Mr Trump from running for federal office in the future if he is convicted after a trial.

The article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection will be sent to the senate on Monday. The senate has confirmed two of Mr Biden's cabinet nominees, Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence and Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defence.

It comes as reports say that senior Republicans in Washington, including former members of the Trump administration, have been trying to convince congressional Republicans to impeach and convict Mr Trump. Ten Republicans in the House voted to impeach Mr Trump and senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has kept his options open as to whether he will vote to convict the former president. Mr McConnell has also made it clear that it’s up to each member of his caucus to make up their own minds on how to vote. 

Texas Republican senator John Cornyn said on Tuesday that "I've heard people talk about a vote of conscience, and I think that's a good way to put it," CNN reported. 

Read more: Follow live updates on the beginning of the Biden presidency

A Republican member of Congress told CNN that "Mitch said to me he wants Trump gone. It is in his political interest to have him gone. It is in the GOP interest to have him gone. The question is, do we get there?"

Mr Johnson initially committed to voting against certifying President Biden's electoral college win but relented after the violent overthrow of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.

In protest of his initial challenge to the election results, a caravan of about 40 cars circled Mr Johnson’s office in Madison, calling on him to step down after the riot. Mr Johnson denounced the violence at the Capitol but did not back off from his baseless allegations of voter fraud.

Editorials in two of Wisconsin's biggest newspapers argued that Mr Johnson should resign, joining with editorials published in papers across the country that targeted GOP politicians who had objected to the results of a free and fair election. 

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