Republican senators are facing a historic choice after both sides in the impeachment trial of former President Trump rested their case Friday.
No one expects the number of Republicans who defy Trump to reach the total required for conviction — 17, assuming all Democrats vote the same way. But the final vote, expected Saturday or Sunday at the latest, will be a key test of the mood in a divided party.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) became the only senator ever to vote to convict a president of his own party at the climax of Trump’s first impeachment trial, a year ago. If Romney votes to convict again this weekend, he might have more company.
Four GOP senators joined Romney late last month in asserting that Trump’s trial was constitutional. They are Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.). A similar vote earlier this week saw their ranks expand by one, when Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) joined them.
If even five or six GOP senators decide that Trump ought to be convicted, it would be the most bipartisan vote of its kind in American history — even as it would be well short of the super-majority required to produce an actual conviction.
GOP strategist Alex Conant, a former adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said he believed such an outcome would say “that there are a significant number of Republicans who were repulsed by Trump’s actions after the election and want to hold him accountable. Now, it is not a majority of Republicans by any means…but it suggests there are a significant number of Republicans who are uncomfortable with Trump moving forward.”HurryTimer: Invalid campaign ID.
Such a vote would underline the deep fissures in a party that is still trying to grapple with the legacy of the 45th president — and with his magnetic hold on the party’s grassroots activists.
In recent weeks, battles over the House leadership position of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and the committee assignments of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have been, in effect, proxy wars about Trump. Cheney voted to impeach the former president in the House, while Greene is a fervent Trump supporter.
The outcome, internally, was a split decision: Cheney held onto her leadership post but Greene was only stripped of her committee posts after a full vote of the House. Only 11 Republican House members voted against Greene, a conspiracy theorist who has encouraged violence against political opponents.
Now, Republican senators are in the position of having to declare their hand about a former president who lost the White House, is widely believed to have contributed to the loss of the Senate, stands accused of inciting a riot that placed their lives in danger — and yet remains formidably popular with the GOP base.
An Economist/YouGov poll conducted Feb. 6-9 indicated 87 percent of Republican voters believe Trump should not be convicted, even as the overall electorate favors that outcome by a modest plurality, 47 percent to 42 percent.
The same proportion of Republicans, 87 percent, said they had a favorable view of Trump overall. Among the general public, that figure was just 39 percent.