Growing number of Republican senators oppose trial for Trump

Mary Clare Jalonick
Associated Press
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Washington – A growing number of Republican senators say they oppose holding an impeachment trial, a sign of the dimming chances that former President Donald Trump will be convicted on the charge that he incited a siege of the U.S. Capitol.

House Democrats, who will walk the impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate on Monday evening, are hoping that strong Republican denunciations of Trump after the Jan. 6 riot will translate into a conviction and a separate vote to bar Trump from holding office again. But GOP passions appear to have cooled since the insurrection, and now that Trump’s presidency is over, Republican senators who will serve as jurors in the trial are rallying to his legal defense, as they did during his first impeachment trial last year.

“I think the trial is stupid, I think it’s counterproductive,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla..

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a confirmation hearing for President-elect Joe Biden's pick for national intelligence director Avril Haines before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday. (Joe Raedle/Pool via AP)

Arguments in the Senate trial will begin the week of Feb. 8. Leaders in both parties agreed to the short delay to give Trump’s team and House prosecutors time to prepare and the Senate the chance to confirm some of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees. Democrats say the extra days will allow for more evidence to come out about the rioting by Trump supporters who interrupted the congressional electoral count of Biden’s election victory, while Republicans hope to craft a unified defense for Trump.

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An early vote to dismiss the trial probably would not succeed, given that Democrats now control the Senate. Still, the Republican opposition indicates that many GOP senators would eventually vote to acquit Trump. Democrats would need the support of 17 Republicans – a high bar – to convict him.

When the House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, exactly one week after the siege, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he didn’t believe the Senate had the constitutional authority to convict Trump after he had left office. On Sunday, Cotton said “the more I talk to other Republican senators, the more they’re beginning to line up” behind that argument.

“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he believes there is a “preponderance of opinion” that an impeachment trial is appropriate after someone leaves office.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, questions Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

“I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense,” Romney said. “If not, what is?”

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said he believes a trial is a “moot point” after a president’s term is over, “and I think it’s one that they would have a very difficult time in trying to get done within the Senate.”

And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, had tweeted on Saturday: “If it is a good idea to impeach and try former Presidents, what about former Democratic Presidents when Republicans get the majority in 2022? Think about it and let’s do what is best for the country.”

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