PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds called the Trump-backed mob that invaded the Capitol a week ago "an insurrection," but stopped short of signaling he'd support the impeachment article that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Jan. 13, once that measure to remove President Donald Trump reaches the U.S. Senate.
"The timing right now with the removal of office being the primary purpose would seem to me to be moot," Rounds told Forum News Service during an interview Wednesday morning, Jan. 13.
Rounds said he didn't expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the U.S. Senate back into session until the day prior the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, giving the U.S. Senate only a day to convict the president on a two-thirds vote.
However, the Republican, speaking by phone from his home in Pierre, as the U.S. Senate remains in recess, said he believes Trump may be liable for criminal prosecution for his role in inciting a riot to overturn the Biden's presidential election victory.
"In my opinion, what we had was an insurrection," said Rounds. "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."
Rounds cited Section 2383 of Title 18 of the U.S. code, "Rebellion or insurrection," as the law that prosecutors could use against Trump.
"If there are (impeachment) proceedings brought against him (Trump)," said Rounds, "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 won a second six-year term in November, voted Jan. 6 to certify the election results. He deflected calls from Trump — and many in his own state's Legislature — to overturn the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. But the 66-year-old former governor stressed many of the president's followers had been misled by baseless claims of election fraud.
"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."
During last week's siege, a spokesperson for Rounds confirmed the senator was taken to a secure location. The attacks briefly forestalled a joint congressional meeting to certify the presidential election.
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Democrats impeached Trump for "incitement of insurrection" with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats in voting "aye" for the measure. Trump was impeached by the U.S. House in 2019, as well, though never convicted in a trial early last year in the U.S. Senate, for his role in withholding U.S. funds to pressure Ukrainian officials to assist in aiding his presidential campaign.
This latest attempt to remove Trump from office for his role in stirring up supporters in a speech Jan. 6, just before the siege on the U.S. Capitol, has gained a stronger bipartisan tinge.
On Tuesday evening, The New York Times reported McConnell was "open" to the impeachment of Trump for his role in the riot. Also on Tuesday, the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney, sided with a handful of other Republicans to say they would join Democrats in impeaching Trump.
Earlier this week, South Dakota's lone member of the House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, told Forum News Service he would not support impeachment efforts.
“There are only a few days left of this presidency," said Johnson, in an emailed statement. "Impeachment is the single most divisive thing Democratic leadership could do.”
South Dakota's senior congressional lawmaker, Sen. John Thune, the Majority Whip, has yet to publicly comment on the impeachment effort in the House. His office did not respond to requests for comment Monday.