But getting McConnell and at least 16 other Republicans to judge Trump after he leaves office is a whole other matter.
“There is no love lost in the Republican Senate conference for Trump,” said a GOP source familiar with internal discussions. “Everyone is ready for this. But there is a really open question about how many people will vote to judge him after his term has expired.”
Several senior GOP sources told CNN on Thursday that many Republicans are torn over whether Trump’s actions justify the unprecedented move to ban him from ever working again when he leaves the White House next week.
Republicans say it will ultimately be up to a combination of factors ̵
Privately, Republicans have reviewed the internal poll showing Trump’s support craters among GOP voters since election day – especially since last week, when he called for a violent mob of his supporters to riot in the Capitol, leading to the deaths of five people, two sources said. But even after leaving office, he will have to continue to maintain a significant swing with the GOP base, something Republicans facing re-election – and potential primary challengers – will be forced to confront.
Republicans are largely divided into several camps. Some, like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, oppose the case because they claim it is constitutionally questionable to convict a president when he leaves office, a position many Republicans have to take.
“I doubt we can even get a lawsuit against a former president, which we are dealing with here,” GOP Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told CNN on Thursday.
Others, such as Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, are likely to accommodate many House Republicans who said the prosecution will further divide the country.
“A prosecution will only lead to more hatred and a deeply broken nation,” Scott, who faces voters in 2022, said this week.
Yet some Republicans say it is important to put a marker to make it clear that Congress will not stand for future presidents who can follow Trump’s path – and that the president’s actions crossed a clear line that must never be repeated.
“I think it’s one of the most consistent actions we need to take, and I think it would be appropriate.”
In a statement Thursday, Murkowski said she would “listen carefully” to the arguments before making a decision on her vote, but said Parliament acted “quickly, and I think, appropriately with accusation.”
McConnell has, first, privately told his colleagues that he is really indecisive and will keep an open mind when listening to the arguments of the House Democratic Demission Manager, according to people familiar with the matter. He wants to let the passions of the moment cool down and let the trial play out before deciding that many views will be the key to swinging Senate GOP votes – and deciding whether Trump is doomed.
“There is no difference in the (GOP) conference that there are potentially illegal violations here,” the first Republican source said. “I think almost everyone believes in it.”
In fact, many remain sharply critical of Trump’s remarks to his supporters at last week’s demonstration that preceded the Capitol uprising.
“If anything, he called for a very emotional situation, very inappropriate action from people who appear to be his supporters,” said Senator Mike Rounds, a Republican in South Dakota, after the rebels stormed the Capitol.
Republican senators who are out of Washington until next week are mostly quiet before the trial. More than a dozen Senate GOP offices either rejected or did not respond to requests for comment Thursday on the House approving an article for persecution that accused Trump of inciting an uprising and was backed by 10 House Republicans.
Democrats weigh whether to bring witnesses, plan to argue for constitutional benefits
House Democrats, acknowledging that they need to convince at least 17 Republicans to go along with conviction, are starting to build their case internally. Among the issues they are trying to resolve: Whether to bring in outside witnesses, including Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose interaction with Trump was quoted in the indictment after the president pressured the Republican election official to “find” the necessary votes to overthrow Joe Bidens victory in the state.
“We will get answers when we get some answers,” Raskin said Wednesday night when asked if he would seek witnesses in the prosecution as he walked into Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ suite.
Walter Jones, a spokesman for Georgia’s foreign secretary, would not say on Thursday whether Raffensperger or another top election official, Gabriel Sterling, would be willing to testify during the trial.
“Our team is fully focused on the current session of the Georgia General Assembly at the moment,” Jones told CNN.
Raskin, a constitutional scientist, is expected to argue that there is ample precedent for the Senate to convict a federal official after leaving office – a case central to convincing some fenced-off GOP senators as Trump’s defense team is expected to argue for such an action is unconstitutional.
“Whether it’s the Senate that has the constitutional authority to hold a trial against a president who is no longer in office can be debated,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican in Pennsylvania who emerged as a leading GOP critic of Trump’s rhetoric after the election. . “Should the Senate conduct a trial, I will again fulfill my responsibility to consider arguments from both House leaders and President Trump’s lawyers.”
There has never been a lawsuit against a former president, and Trump’s allies have argued that the Senate does not have the constitutional authority to hold a lawsuit for the president once he leaves office. The Senate has convicted only eight officials in history.
The Constitution, Vladeck noted, states that the Senate’s judgment in indictment cases includes removal from office as well as “disqualification for holding and enjoying any office of honor, trust, or merit under the United States.”
“This latter clause is key because it drives home, as the Senate has two decisions to make in indictments: First, it must decide whether an officer should be removed,” Vladeck wrote. “Then it must decide whether this person should be disqualified from having a future federal office. In fact, the eight officers the Senate has ever voted to remove have voted to disqualify only three of them – reinforcing that removal and disqualification are separate investigations. “
In his statements on the forthcoming trial, McConnell has not indicated that he believes it would be unconstitutional or that he would do anything to stop the trial for these reasons. Still, Republicans, including McConnell, could eventually be influenced by the arguments and could point to Trump’s status as a former president as a reason not to vote to convict him.
In a memo obtained by CNN on the schedule of the indictment, McConnell did not question whether the trial should take place. But he raised a question that does not yet have a clear answer: Whether Chief Justice John Roberts would preside as he did for Trump’s first indictment.
“When a sitting president is tried by the Senate, the Constitution requires the Supreme Court to preside over the trial. Senate prosecution rules require the Senate to invite the Supreme Court to attend the Senate and preside over the trial,” McConnell wrote. “Generally, this invitation would be issued on January 19. Whether the Supreme Court would actually lead the trial after President Trump ceases to be president on January 20, however, is unclear.”
Trump sees GOP support eroded as Republicans’ eye primary election
Even as GOP support for Trump has begun to deteriorate, many Republicans have to worry about political ramifications at home. A GOP source said an internal poll since election day has seen Trump slip more than two figures among Republican voters nationally.
Still, Trump supporters are bound to be a force in the GOP primary – and how they vote on conviction is likely to set the tone for the election cycle.
The landscape is challenging for Senate Republicans when it comes to defending 20 seats against 14 for Democrats. Senate Republicans for re-election who find Trump guilty could easily face Trump-backed primary challengers. Prior to the riots, Trump already demanded a primary challenge to Senate Republican No. 2 John Thune of South Dakota for saying the president’s efforts to overthrow the election would fail.
“You just have to take things in stride,” Thune said, leaving the Capitol overnight for the riots when asked if he was worried about a primary challenge. “It’s a free country. I suppose we’ll see a lot of that activity in the next few years for some of our members – maybe even myself. You just have to play the hand you get dealt.”
While Trump has been significantly weakened politically in the fallout from the riots he encouraged, there is likely still a loyal pro-Trump base in the Republican Party after he leaves office. Among the cyclists closely monitored: Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio and Todd Young of Indiana.
Many become mothers on how to get down.
“I think we’ll have to wait and hear the evidence,” said Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, the 86-year-old veteran Republican who could retire rather than seek re-election in 2022. “And as a jury member, I would carefully consider the evidence presented. “
CNN’s Alex Rogers contributed to this report.