March 4, 2021

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Republican senators signal they have made up their minds on impeachment as trial starts to close – Business Insider

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Republican senators signal they’ve made up minds about impeachment

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Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., holding a document in the Senate Reception room of the Capitol as he talks with staff on the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment trials for former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, Friday, Feb 12, 2021 in Washington.
(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

  • As Trump’s impeachment trial nears an end, some senators have signaled they know how they’ll vote.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy was photographed with an apparent statement supporting acquittal on Friday.
  • Some Republicans have praised the prosecution, but say that doesn’t change their mind on acquittal. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As the fourth day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial came to a close, more and more Republican senators indicated they had already come to a final decision on whether or not they’ll vote to acquit or convict the former president.

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who surprised many earlier this week by breaking with most Republicans to vote for the trial to continue, was photographed Friday holding a document that seemed to show support for Trump’s eventual acquittal.

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured a photo of the senator holding a document that seemed to describe reasoning for acquitting Trump.

The sheet of paper he was holding said “President Trump and many others certainly contributed to the environment,” by engaging in “excessive and unnecessary rhetoric before and after the election,” the draft also said that “House Managers did not connect the dots to show President Trump knew that the attack on the Capitol was going to be violent and result in the loss of life.”

Cassidy’s behavior throughout the trial this week suggested he had not yet made up his mind one way or another. The Washington Post reported that his “agony and internal deliberations” were playing out on the Senate floor in real-time. 

He reportedly paced in the back of the chamber during much of the proceedings, took vigorous notes, and was visibly troubled while the prosecution played never-before-seen footage from the January 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Cassidy had been the lone senator to switch his position on whether he believed the impeachment trial was constitutional. After what he called a “great job” by the House impeachment managers on Tuesday, Cassidy joined five other Republicans and all 50 Democrats to vote in favor of the trial proceeding.

According to The Post, Cassidy told reporters Friday night that the document seen in his hand was not indicative of any final decision and that he remained undecided. A spokesperson for his office tweeted that the lawmaker was “reviewing memos from both points of view as part of his thought process before coming to a conclusion.” 

But even if Cassidy is still undecided, others within the party have signaled — or downright said — that their minds are already made up.

Some senators are more focused on the question of constitutionality than evidence 

Many Republicans have been arguing for weeks that impeaching and convicting a former president is unconstitutional, despite the ambiguous nature of the Constitution on the matter.

Though the question of constitutionality was settled by the Senate on Tuesday in a 56-44 vote, some of the most vocal critics of the trial have made it clear that no evidence, nor argument presented by impeachment managers will sway them from voting to acquit Trump.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told The Post that the trial was a waste of time and is the result of “partisan anger” from congressional Democrats and has been clear from the start how he would vote. “The result of this trial is preordained,” Cruz told the outlet on Thursday. “President Trump will be acquitted.” 

Similarly, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was clear he had made up his mind by day two of the trial. “If you don’t have jurisdiction, that’s just the end of the call,” he told the outlet Wednesday.

And Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, when asked by The Post, once again emphasized his objection to the constitutionality of the trial. 

Despite praise for House impeachment managers, many minds have already been made up

Other Republicans praised the prosecution’s work, calling it “well done” and “impressive.” But not even their own accolades for the House managers suggest they’ll vote to convict.

Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota applauded the impeachment managers’ work but said it would not impact his final decision, nor did it affect him “in terms of how I feel about the president’s culpability. That’s what’s on trial,” he told The Post. 

Sen. Jame Inhofe of Oklahoma also praised the prosecution’s work, saying they had “put a real good team together,” but told the outlet that didn’t change his mind on the matter.

“We’ve had all this time for everyone to use every possible argument they could use. So I’ve heard them all,” he told the newspaper.

Others, too, have made statements suggesting they’re moving closer to a final decision.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota told Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson that the performance by the defense on Friday was much better than the widely criticized, rambling opening statements Trump’s attorneys gave on Tuesday. “I don’t know at this point how many minds get changed,” he said. 

Even with some potential bipartisan support, it’s unlikely Trump will be convicted

Though it seems nearly impossible that Democrats will convince 17 Republicans, the magic number needed for a two-thirds vote, to convict Trump of incitement, there are some Republicans who seem open to the idea.

Following the prosecution’s arguments Wednesday, which included chilling new video and audio from the Capitol siege, Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters she was left “angry,” “disturbed,” and “sad.”  

“The evidence that has been presented thus far is pretty damning,” she said. 

Politico reported Friday that Republicans are privately estimating between 5 to 10 GOP senators are seriously considering voting to convict.

Now that oral arguments and questioning have ended, both sides will have two hours each to make closing arguments, and a final vote on whether to convict or acquit the former president is expected this weekend. It’s unclear if there will be a vote to call witnesses.

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