Senate Republicans have backed themselves into a corner by dismissing President Donald Trump’s incitement of the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that put every lawmaker’s life in danger.
A total of 45 Republican senators voted in support of a resolution declaring the impeachment of the former president unconstitutional. The vote boxes in the overwhelming majority of the Senate Republican Conference into supporting Trump’s acquittal on a single article of impeachment before the House managers and Trump’s lawyers have even filed their pre-trial briefs.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of only a handful of GOP senators actively considering whether to vote to convict Trump, said on Tuesday that she and her colleagues were caught “flat-footed” by the procedural vote. She said she was not aware until Tuesday morning that she would be voting on the motion from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) later in the day.
Senate Republicans held a lunch meeting immediately before the vote at which they heard a lengthy presentation from George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley about why the impeachment trial is unconstitutional.
Murkowski said afterward it was the only in-depth presentation that she and many of her colleagues heard about the constitutionality of the trial before voting on that very question, even though there are conflicting academic opinions on the subject.
She lamented that Turley’s was the only opinion heard before the vote. “So we heard one side,” she said.
Sen. Mitt Romney was the only Republican at Tuesday’s lunch to stand up and push back against Turley’s arguments, according to Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who attended the meeting.
Despite the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed on Wednesday to move forward with former President Trump’s second impeachment trial even as Republicans appear poised to acquit him.
“I would simply say to all of my colleagues make no mistake, there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
“No one will be able to avert their gaze from what Mr. Trump said and did and the consequences of his actions. …We will all watch what happened. We will listen to what happened and then we will vote,” he added.