“The Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president. The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office — not an inquest against private citizens,” Cotton said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Cotton’s rationale for not voting to convict Trump once he leaves office will likely become political cover for other GOP senators to vote against a House-passed article of impeachment, even if they think Trump might have committed impeachable offenses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced earlier Wednesday that Trump’s second impeachment trial will not begin until after the Senate returns from a recess scheduled to end on Jan. 19. That means the soonest the trial could begin would be 1 p.m. Jan. 20, the same day President-elect Joe Biden is sworn-in.