Key senators to watch as Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial nears

Click to play video: 'Schumer outlines Trump impeachment trial timeline, says it will begin February'
Schumer outlines Trump impeachment trial timeline, says it will begin February
WATCH: Schumer outlines Trump impeachment trial timeline, says it will begin in February – Jan 23, 2021

The stage is set, and all eyes will be on Republican senators as the second impeachment trial of former U.S. president Donald Trump begins next month.

In a statement on the Senate floor on Friday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the former president’s second trial will begin the week of Feb. 8.

“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Schumer said. “But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.”

While the Democrats now control the Senate, a two-thirds vote is still required to convict.

This means all of the Democrats, both independents and at least 17 Republicans would need to vote in favour of convicting Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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In the House of Representatives, 10 GOP lawmakers voted alongside the Democrats to impeach the former president.

Now, the upper chamber of Congress will be tasked with determining whether Trump is guilty of the single charge: incitement of insurrection.

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Senate able to handle Trump impeachment and stimulus package at same time, White House economic advisor says

While it’s not immediately clear if the Senate Democrats will receive the votes they need, at least a handful of GOP Senators have given some indication they could potentially break with their party.

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Here’s a look at what some Republican senators have said about the looming vote.

Mitt Romney

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was the only GOP Senator who voted in favour of convicting Trump for abuse of power during the first impeachment trial last year.

He has publicly blamed Trump for inciting the protesters, calling the events on Jan. 6 an “insurrection.”

“Those who choose to continue to support [Trump’s] dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy,” Romey said in a statement after the riot.

“They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy.”

All eyes are now on the Utah senator to see if he will once again vote to convict Trump.

Ben Sasse

Earlier this month, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse told CBS’ This Morning that he “will definitely consider whatever articles they might move.”

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In the last several months, Sasse has been critical of Trump and his Republican colleagues.

In an op-ed for the Atlantic last week, Sasse noted that what he is able to say ahead of the Senate vote is limited.

“But no matter what happens in that trial, the Republican Party faces a separate reckoning,” he said. “Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon. They can’t.”

Sasses said the GOP “must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them.”

“Now is the time to decide what this party is about,” he wrote.

Pat Toomey

Three days after the riot, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey told Fox News he does think “the president committed impeachable offences,” but said with only a few days left in Trump’s tenure he wasn’t sure what the best path forward was.

In a statement last week, Toomey said he stood by his statements about Trump “and the role he played in the deadly riot at the Capitol,” but said it is “debatable” whether the Senate has the constitutional authority to hold a trial if he is no longer in office.

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However, Toomey said if the Senate conducts a trial: “I will again fulfill my responsibility to consider arguments from both the House managers and President Trump’s lawyers.”

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Trump becomes first U.S. president to be impeached twice

This time around Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin has been named head impeachment manager.

It is not yet clear who will be representing Trump at the trial, however his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said he will not partake.

Susan Collins

In an article written for Bangor Daily News after the riot, Senator Susan Collins publicly blamed Trump for inciting the protesters on Jan. 6.

“I called and texted my closest contact at the White House to urge that the president immediately tell the rioters to stop their violence and go home,” Collins wrote, recounting the protests. “But President Donald Trump completely undercut that message by repeating his grievances and telling the rioters that he knew how they felt.

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“This was terrible, especially since he incited them in the first place.”

According to an NBC report, Collins’s communication’s director Annie Clark said the senator is “outraged” by the violence at the Capitol, but won’t comment on impeachment.

Click to play video: 'Schumer says articles of impeachment for former president Trump to be sent to Senate on Monday'
Schumer says articles of impeachment for former president Trump to be sent to Senate on Monday

“Senator Collins has talked to many of her colleagues,” the statement to NBC said. “All of them, including Senator Collins, are outraged about the violence at the Capitol and the President’s role.”

Lisa Murkowski

In the days following the riot, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski called for Trump’s resignation.

“I want him to resign,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “I want him out. He has caused enough damage.”

In a statement after the House voted to impeach Trump, Murkowski said the lower chamber acted “appropriately.”

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“When the Article of Impeachment comes to the Senate, I will follow the oath I made when sworn in as a U.S. Senator,” she said. “I will listen carefully and consider the arguments of both sides, and will then announce how I will vote.”

While it’s unclear how Murkowski plans to vote, she has threatened to leave the Party if the GOP does not cut ties with Trump.

“If the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me,” she told the Anchorage Daily News earlier this month.

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Could Trump be convicted?

While it is possible that 17 Republicans could vote to convict Trump, it’s very unlikely, Matthew Lebo, chair of political science at Western University said.

“I do think it’s a long shot, but there will be more conviction votes this time than last time,” he said, adding that five or six Republicans could vote in favour of conviction.

Lebo said this time around, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be a “key senator.”

During Trump’s first impeachment trial, McConnell — who led the then-Republican-held Senate — insulated the president, refusing to call witnesses during the proceedings.

The chamber ultimately voted to acquit Trump of both charges after just under three weeks.

This time, though, is bound to be different.

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White House says Biden confident Senate can multitask with impeachment, won’t tell them to drop trial
“[McConnell has] indicated that he blames Trump for the insurrection,” Lebo said. “He certainly, I think, wants the Republican Party to move past Donald Trump.”
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He said he thinks McConnell is “open to convict.”

“So, you know, when I think about him, how many other Republicans might feel freed-up if that was McConnell’s decision?”

While Lebo said he doesn’t think McConnell is doing any “arm twisting,” or is instructing senators how to vote, there is “certainly a lot of communication” between GOP members.

“I think he’s strategizing with the other senators,” Lebo said. “His main goal is to win the majority, and so that means protecting every single one of them, and talking to them about, well, ‘what’s the smart way for you to vote?’

Another thing that might affect how senators vote is how well newly inaugurated President Joe Biden does in his first few weeks in office.

“I think he’s going to have a decent sized honeymoon, better certainly than Trump got and probably better than Barack Obama got,” Lebo said.

“And that might make Republican senators think they can put Trump behind them, and that might make them feel a little more ready to bury Trump right right now.”

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