- The Senate is set to begin an impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump.
- At least half a dozen Republican senators have signaled a willingness to hold Trump accountable for the Capitol siege.
- All eyes are on Sens. Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, and Ben Sasse.
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As a Senate impeachment trial looms for former President Donald Trump, all eyes are on the handful of Republican lawmakers who could break ranks and potentially convince their colleagues to vote to convict Trump and bar him from ever running for public office again.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump last week, charging him with incitement of insurrection over his role in the Capitol siege on January 6 that resulted in five deaths. At the time, a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol after Trump encouraged them to stop Congress from finalizing President Joe Biden's victory.
Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is poised to send the article of impeachment against Trump over to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is simultaneously working to confirm Biden's Cabinet nominees and push forward his legislative agenda focused on the COVID-19 crisis and the US's economic recovery.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that he is discussing a bipartisan agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on how to conduct the impeachment trial.
"Make no mistake about it," Schumer said. "There will be a trial, there will be a vote, up or down, on whether to convict the [former] president. I believe he should be convicted."
Whether Trump is actually convicted depends on how many Republicans break away from their caucus. In order to officially remove a president from office and bar him from running again, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict him. That means that if every Democrat votes in favor of conviction, at least 17 Republicans would have to join them.
No GOP members have publicly said which way they intend to vote, but several have hinted at their stances.
Key Republicans to pay attention to
- The Kentucky senator is by far the most powerful Republican in the country right now. If he voted to convict Trump, it would be a seismic development that could open the door for other Republicans to vote the same way.
- McConnell has made no secret of his disdain for Trump since the insurrection. The Washington Post reported that he never wants to speak to the former president again, and The New York Times reported that McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses. He is also said to be leaning toward voting to convict Trump, according to Axios.
- Sen. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska.
- Murkowski called on Trump to resign after the siege and said if the GOP couldn't separate itself from him, she may leave the party.
- Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
- Romney was the sole Republican who voted to convict Trump for abuse of power following his first impeachment trial related to the Ukraine scandal. After the Capitol siege, Romney skewered Trump for his role in inciting the deadly event and has since come out in favor of holding an impeachment trial to dole out "justice" for what happened.
- He also said an impeachment trial would not necessarily be divisive, telling reporters, "When people are saying, 'Oh, we need to have unity,' they don't realize that the lie is causing disunity. That obviously is a real problem."
- Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
- Collins is a bit of a wildcard in the impeachment debate. While she called Trump's actions "appalling" and said he "bears responsibility" for what transpired at the Capitol, the New Hampshire Republican has been silent on her position related to impeachment.
- Collins drew significant criticism after Trump's first impeachment trial, when she voted to acquit him and claimed the president had learned from his actions.
- Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
- Sasse said he would seriously consider any articles of impeachment against the former president in the wake of the violence. He said what Trump did was "wicked" but questioned whether impeachment would be divisive for the country.
- Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
- "I do think the president committed impeachable offenses," Toomey told Fox News. "I'm not sure it's desirable to attempt to force him out, what, a day or two or three prior to the day on which he's going to be finished anyway … so I'm not clear that's the best path forward."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki emphasized on Wednesday evening that Biden would like to see the Senate try to dual-track his Cabinet confirmations while also carrying out an impeachment trial.
"Just like the American people can, the Senate can also multitask, and they can do their constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the American people," Psaki said. Biden will "leave the mechanics" and timing of an impeachment trial up to Congress, she added.
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