Where Republican senators stand on Trump's 2nd impeachment trial

Christopher Wilson
·Senior Writer
·10-min read

Democratic impeachment managers from the House of Representatives have spent this week laying out their case that former President Donald Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A vote is expected in the coming days on whether or not to convict him.

In earlier procedural votes, only a handful of Republicans broke with the former president. On Tuesday, six Republican senators joined with Democrats and voted that it was constitutional for Trump to be tried by the Senate despite no longer being in office.

A conviction will take a two-thirds Senate majority, or 67 votes. Democrats control only 50 seats in the chamber, however, and Trump is widely expected to be acquitted.

President Biden has largely avoided weighing in on the proceedings, but he offered Thursday morning that of GOP senators considering the evidence, "my guess is some minds may be changed.”

Here’s what some Republican senators are saying about the ongoing trial and the arguments from the Democratic impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers.

Senators seen as more likely to vote for conviction

Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah

Republican Senator from Utah Mitt Romney  arrives for the third day of the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill February 11, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Michael Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Mitt Romney. (Getty Images)

One of the new pieces of evidence submitted Wednesday was footage of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman directing Romney away from the mob on the day of the attack. After seeing the security footage, Romney said, “I was very fortunate indeed that Officer Goodman was there to get me in the right direction.

“Obviously very troubling to see the great violence that our Capitol Police and others are subjected to,” Romney added. “It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes; that was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional.”

At Trump’s first impeachment trial, last year, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict, doing so on one of the two counts. He also voted that Trump’s second impeachment trial is constitutional.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska

“I don't see how after the American public sees the whole story laid out here ... how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency,” Murkowski told reporters Wednesday, adding, “The evidence that has been presented thus far is pretty damning.

“I know what I was feeling in the Senate chamber when I could hear those voices. I knew what it meant to be running down this hallway with my colleagues,” Murkowski added. “I wasn’t fully aware of everything else that was happening in the building. So when you see all the pieces come together, just the total awareness of that, the enormity of this, this threat, not just to us as people, as lawmakers, but the threat to the institution and what Congress represents, it’s disturbing.”

Murkowski, a frequent Trump critic, voted that Trump’s second impeachment trial is constitutional.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), speaks with National Guard troops taking a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Sen. Susan Collins. (Getty Images)

Collins said she was “perplexed” by the performance of Trump attorney Bruce Castor on Wednesday, saying, “He did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take.”

Collins voted that the trial was constitutional.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana

Cassidy was one of six GOP senators to vote that the trial was constitutional, saying in a statement after the Tuesday arguments, “If anyone disagrees with my vote and would like an explanation, I ask them to listen to the arguments presented by the House managers and former President Trump’s lawyers. The House managers had much stronger constitutional arguments. The president’s team did not.”

“If I’m an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job, and the other side is doing a terrible job, on the issue at hand, as an impartial juror I’m going to vote for the side that did the good job,” Cassidy told reporters.

Cassidy did emphasize that the vote on constitutionality did not “predict my vote on anything else,” saying that he had an “open mind” on the final conviction vote.

Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania

“I thought the House impeachment managers made very strong arguments. It was persuasive and well grounded in the Constitution and precedent,” Toomey told reporters on Tuesday.

Toomey, who has announced he will not seek reelection in 2022, was one of the six Republican senators to vote that Trump’s second impeachment is constitutional.

Senators seen as less likely to vote for conviction

Sen. John Thune, South Dakota

Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Sen. John Thune. (Getty Images)

“I think they’ve done a good job connecting the dots, and the president's Twitter feed is a matter of public record, and they’ve done — I think I said an effective job of going back several months and showing that public record,” Thune, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said of the House managers.

“I think they were very effective. They had a strong presentation put together in a way that I think makes it pretty compelling,” he said, adding, “Like I have said all along, I am going to listen to the arguments and look at the evidence, and I’m doing that. And like I said, these guys were, I think, very effective, and I’ll see what kind of arguments defense puts up, but I am going to listen and draw conclusions when it is all done.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri

"Well, you know, you have a summer where people all over the country are doing similar kinds of things,” Blunt said, comparing the assault on the Capitol that left seven dead to the protests that followed the death of George Floyd. “I don’t know what the other side will show from Seattle and Portland and other places, but you’re going to see similar kinds of tragedies there as well."

Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) departs after the day's proceedings concluded in the impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump, on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Sen. Tim Scott. (Reuters)

Scott told Fox News on Monday that Trump was “simply not guilty” of inciting an insurrection.

“The Democrats should put the blame where it stands, where it should be,” Scott said. “And it does not have to do with the president, who said go ‘peacefully’ to protest.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska

“We know it was going to be an intense experience. For me at least it brings back a lot of anger,” Sullivan said after the video evidence presented Wednesday.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate Chamber on the third day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Getty Images)

The Republican leader in the Senate has voted against moving the trial along at multiple points, but Bloomberg reported Wednesday that “he hasn’t made up his mind how he’ll vote” and that “the final vote on Donald Trump’s impeachment is a matter of conscience and that senators who disputed the constitutionality of the trial could still vote to convict the former president.”

Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma

Lankford had originally stated that he planned to object to the formal counting of certain swing-state electoral votes on Jan. 6 but changed his mind after the riot. He voted that the trial was unconstitutional, tweeting, “You cannot vote to remove someone from office who is not even in office. This is nonsense and sets a terrible precedent for the future.

“Today we had no Chief Justice presiding because the Constitution does not speak to trying a former President. You cannot disqualify someone from running for office until you first decide on removal, but it’s impossible to remove someone from office when he is already gone. This impeachment trial is clearly unconstitutional.”

Politico reported Wednesday that Lankford was “shaken up” by some of the video evidence and appeared “teary-eyed.”

Sen. Jim Risch, Idaho

“I think the president’s lawyer hit the ball out of the park,” Risch said Tuesday, a positive opinion that broke with some of his colleagues.

“[Trump] said, ‘I need you to get out there and fight for me’ — well, you know, what politician hasn’t said that to his supporters?” Risch said.

"You know, I need you to get out there and fight for me. Now, it’s a really slippery slope to say that you hold a political rally and you give fiery speeches and then somebody goes out and does something you didn’t intend and then they hold you responsible for it. That’s not right.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the press after the second day of former US President Donald Trump's impeachment trial before the Senate on Capitol Hill February 10, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Marco Rubio. (Getty Images)

“There isn’t a single American that’s going to get a vaccine because of this impeachment trial. There isn’t a single American that’s going to find a job because of this impeachment trial. There isn’t a single thing that’s going to happen to make us safer from the threat of China from this impeachment trial,” Rubio said Tuesday.

On Thursday morning, he called the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6 “outrageous, criminal, deadly, it could have been far worse, I knew that as well” during a Fox News interview, but said impeachment wasn’t the appropriate thing to do when someone is no longer in office.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas

Cornyn was not impressed by Trump’s attorneys’ arguments on Tuesday that the trial was not constitutional, saying, “The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on. ... I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.” Cornyn, however, still voted against moving forward with the trial.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talks with reporters on his way to the U.S. Capitol on the third day of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz. (Getty Images)

"The footage is horrific. We all witnessed a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. ... It was criminal,” Cruz said. However, he said the arguments against Trump were “strikingly absent. ... The language from the president doesn’t come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement."

Cruz was a leading opponent of certifying Biden’s victory on Jan. 6.

Sen. Rick Scott, Florida

“I’m disgusted that, you know, people think that they can do things like that and get away with it. I hope everybody that came into the Capitol and did the wrong thing gets prosecuted to the full extent of law,” Scott said.

“I’ve been clear that I wish the president had said something faster when they broke into it, but, you know, I’ve watched what he said. He’s never said when somebody should break in — [he] actually said that people should do this peacefully,” Scott said, adding, “This is a complete waste of time. It’s not doing anything to help American families, it’s not helping people get jobs, it’s not helping get the vaccine out ... it’s vindictive.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) arrives at the U.S. Capitol on the third day of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Getty Images)

“The ‘Not Guilty’ vote is growing after today,” tweeted Graham Wednesday night. “I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) arrives at the U.S. Capitol on the third day of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Josh Hawley. (Getty Images)

Hawley was another leading opponent of certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory. He was photographed on Jan. 6 holding up his fist in support of the crowd that would descend on the Capitol.

“It is totally unconstitutional, and it is incredibly selfish on the part of the Democrats, who are pursuing their own personal political vendettas here,” Hawley told Fox News Thursday, adding, “This is a total kangaroo trial.”

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