South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds (R) said he believes that President Donald Trump may be liable for criminal prosecution for inciting the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol building, but did not say he would support Democrats' impeachment efforts against Trump before the president leaves office.
House Democrats on Wednesday voted to impeach Trump a second time on the sole article of "incitement of insurrection," claiming that his rhetoric about the 2020 presidential election being "stolen" encouraged a mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol and attempt to stop the certification of the Electoral College results for President-elect Joe Biden.
Rounds, speaking to the Forum News Service, said that the timing of impeachment for the purpose of removing Trump from office seems "moot."
"The timing right now with the removal of office being the primary purpose would seem to me to be moot," Rounds said Wednesday.
He said he does not expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the Senate back into session before Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, and if that's the case then Trump's impeachment trial would not begin until after he has already left office.
McConnell sent a letter to his Republican colleagues on Wednesday clarifying that the Senate will not begin an impeachment trial earlier than Jan. 19, rejecting a push by Democrats to have an accelerated trial that would remove Trump from office before his term expires. In his letter, the majority leader said he had not made a "final decision" on whether he would vote to convict Trump, declaring his intention to decide after hearing the legal arguments that will be presented to the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the chamber's top Democrat and soon to be majority leader, assured the American people that there will be an impeachment trial in the Senate and, "If the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again."
Rounds suggested that even if the president is not convicted by the Senate, he could still be criminally prosecuted under Section 2383 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, "Rebellion or insurrection," after he leaves office.
"In my opinion, what we had was an insurrection," he told the Forum News Service. "We had violence. We had people killed. We had a mob that ignored direct commands. They attacked law enforcement officers. They damaged federal property. They clearly intended to stop us from performing our duties in the recognition of the electoral vote count.
"If there are (impeachment) proceedings brought against him (Trump)," he continued, "and even if the article of impeachment is not followed through in the Senate, if the article of impeachment to incitement of a riot or incitement of an insurrection are followed through in a criminal proceeding, that by itself would ... stop him (Trump) for running for election to a public office again."
Rounds, who was elected to a second term in November, was one of several Senate Republicans to reject an attempt to object to the Electoral College results led by his colleagues Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). He said many of President Trump's supporters were misled by the president's voter fraud claims.
"When the story of this last 90 days is told, they will clearly lay out that the president of the United States misled very, very good, honest, patriotic Americans by telling them time and again that the election was stolen," Rounds said.
"I believe that history will hold him accountable."