Hopes of congressional Democrats that a Senate impeachment trial would be an opportunity to brand former President Donald Trump with an indelible mark of shame and keep him from ever staging a political comeback appear to be fading, according to a new report.
The Democrat-controlled House passed a single article of impeachment against Trump earlier this month, claiming that he should be removed from office for inciting insurrection. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in that vote.
The article of impeachment is akin to an indictment, which now goes to trial in the Senate, as happened to Trump last year when the House passed articles of impeachment against him but the Senate declined to convict Trump on those charges.
Conviction in the Senate trial requires 67 votes out of the 100 senators. The Senate is currently split 50-50, which means that 17 Republicans would need to join Democrats to convict Trump.
Although many Republican senators had extremely harsh words for Trump in the aftermath of the Capitol incursion, it is unlikely enough will remain angry enough at the former president to convict him when his trial rolls around, according to an article in The Hill that cited unnamed GOP sources to report that “only five or six Republican senators” support conviction.
“I thought if he pardoned people who had been part of this invasion of the Capitol, that would have pushed the number higher because that would have said, ‘These are my guys,’” one Republican senator told The Hill anonymously.
The fervor of the political backlash that has struck House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump, has some senators worried of igniting a similar level of outrage if they vote to convict Trump.
“I do think his supporters would be very upset,” another unnamed Republican senator said.
The passage of time and the transfer of power to President Joe Biden will also be factors, the report said, noting that Trump’s trial is not likely to take place until mid-February, when Trump will have been out of office for several weeks.
“For the most part, there is a real strong consensus among our members that this is after the fact. He’s out of office and impeachment is a remedy to remove somebody from office, so there’s the constitutional question,” the second senator said.
“That’s my sense of where most of our members are going to come down,” the source said.
The Hill said it is unclear whether Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial, given the constitutional questions likely to arise from whether a departed president can be convicted. If a Democrat oversees the trial, “It starts losing its legitimacy,” the first GOP senator told The Hill.
A third unnamed Republican senator estimated there are “five or six, maybe” GOP senators who would vote to convict Trump, while a fourth senator put the number at less than 10.
Republican Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have said they believe Trump’s conduct on the day of the Capitol incursion likely included impeachable offenses.
Fellow GOP Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine have castigated Trump’s conduct, while Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska vented her wish that Trump would resign. McConnell has criticized Trump, but has not said how he would vote at the trial.
Democrats have said they hope to bar Trump from ever seeking office. But to do that, they need to clear the 67-vote bar of convicting him before a simple majority vote on his punishment could take place.
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