- Anthony Zurcher
- Reporter from North America
Donald Trump left Washington DC almost a week ago, but he continues to cast a long shadow over the Republican Party in Congress.
In the first official impeachment support test, according to which Donald Trump instigated his supporters to mount an insurgency on the U.S. Capitol, 45 of 50 Republican senators voted to stop the trial even before he did so. start.
After the vote, Rand Paul, who lobbied for the annulment, claimed that the indictment article delivered by the House on Monday was “dead on arrival.”
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He is probably right.
It would take 17 Republican senators to break ranks and vote alongside the 50 Democrats to condemn the president and, with a vote up or down, prevent him from running for federal office again.
Tuesday’s vote shows that there are only five people who even want to consider the evidence: Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey.
The others claim that presidents cannot face impeachment trials once they leave office.
“My vote to reject the impeachment article is based on the fact that the impeachment was designed to remove a public office holder,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement released after the vote.
“The Constitution does not give Congress the power to indict a private citizen.”
Democrats will certainly find this a very convenient way of not having to pass judgment on the president’s behavior.
They will also point out that while there is no historical precedent for such procedures at the presidential level, a 19th-century cabinet secretary faced a Senate impeachment trial for corruption, even after resigning from office. his position.
Regardless of the explanations and justifications, the procedural vote is only the latest, clearest sign of the weakening of Republicans’ support to convict as responsible for the riot on Capitol Hill three weeks ago.
Shortly after the incident, Lindsey Graham – one of the president’s closest allies in the Senate – said the president’s actions “were the problem” and his legacy was “tarnished”.
Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly said he was “happy” with the House impeachment efforts and said last week that the mob that attacked the Capitol had been “fed on lies” and “provoked” by the president.
Graham and McConnell both voted Tuesday to end the impeachment trial.
The changing views of the Republican Party on the president’s guilt are probably best captured by the shifting comments from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
During the impeachment debate in the House of Representatives two weeks ago, McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s riot mob attack” and recommended that it be formally censored by the House .
Last week he said he didn’t believe Trump “caused” the rally, and then days later that “everyone in this country has some responsibility” for creating the political environment which led to the insurgency.
Meanwhile, those who spoke out against the former president and did not withdraw their remarks are facing growing calls for political retaliation from their own party.
Liz Cheney, who has sharply criticized the president and was one of ten Republicans to vote for impeachment in the House, faces an attempt to remove her from her post as leader of the party.
Others are threatened with challenge if they stand for re-election next year.
After Tuesday’s vote, the Senate will sit on the back burner for two weeks, while House impeachment officials and Mr. Trump’s legal team prepare their cases.
Given the apparent disposition of Republican senators, the Democrats’ only strategy might be to make an acquittal vote, even if it is a done deal, as uncomfortable as possible.
They will do their best to remind the 100 Senators of the fear, confusion and anger they felt on January 6 when they fled the chamber in front of an angry crowd.
They will try to blame the riot on a president who spent two months questioning the election result and who chose to hold a protest rally a few steps from Capitol Hill on the day Congress met to certify this election.
Then we will have to hope that history – and American voters – are ready to pinpoint the culprit, even if the Senate does not.