Dozens of influential Republicans, including former top Trump administration officials, have been quietly lobbying GOP members of Congress to impeach and convict Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday.
According got the report, “the lobbying started in the House after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and in the days leading up to impeachment. But it’s now more focused on Sen. Mitch McConnell, the powerful minority leader who has signaled he may support convicting Trump.”
“Mitch said to me he wants Trump gone. It is in his political interest to have him gone. It is in the GOP interest to have him gone. The question is, do we get there?” one Republican member of Congress told CNN.
The report comes as the House is set to send articles of impeachment to the Senate on Monday.
It would take 17 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats in order to convict. While the bar is high, some GOP sources think there is more of an appetite to punish the former President than is publicly apparent.
A former senior Republican official told CNN that while Trump created “a cult of personality that is hard to dismantle,” a conviction in the Senate “could do that.”
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly told the news outlet if it was up to him, he would vote to remove Trump. Former Attorney General Bill Barr accused the President of “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress” and went on to call his conduct a “betrayal of his office.”
The consensus among the Republicans who spoke to CNN is that McConnell’s decision on conviction will sway others. On Tuesday, in his most forceful comments yet, McConnell tied Trump’s actions to the attack itself during a speech on the Senate floor.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like. But we pressed on.”
Since he is known as restrained and deliberate, McConnell’s words gave hope to Republicans who would like the party to split from Trump.
However the fear of reprisal from Trump’s allies in the media — Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have already criticized McConnell’s condemnation of Trump — and Trump’s base may prevail.
A former senior Republican official who would like to see Trump convicted characterized it as an internal war within the party and expressed pessimism that enough senators would rise to the occasion.
“I have learned through sad experience that no one has lost money betting on the seemingly bottomless capacity of congressional R’s for self-abasement and cowardice,” said the former official.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News Wednesday that “if you’re wanting to erase Donald Trump from the party, you’re going to get erased” before adding: This idea of moving forward without Donald Trump in the Republican Party is a disaster for the Republican Party.”