The Slatest

What the Republican Senators Most Likely to Convict Trump Have Said About Impeachment

McConnell, wearing a medical mask, stands among other senators.
Mitch McConnell in the Senate chamber for the Electoral College vote certification on Jan. 6. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s riots at the Capitol. It’s expected the vote will easily pass the 50 percent threshold needed and that a number of Republicans will join their Democratic colleagues in sanctioning the president.

The Senate would then hold a trial on the article of impeachment. (This trial will not occur until after Joe Biden has been sworn in as president, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will not reconvene this week. But constitutional experts believe there is no reason Congress can’t convict a president after he has left office—and sanctions could include a ban on Trump running for president or holding public office again.) To convict Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority. If every Democrat in the new Senate voted to convict, 17 Republicans would need to join. In Trump’s first impeachment trial, only one—Utah Sen. Mitt Romney—voted against the president.

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While it remains unlikely to happen, it’s no longer unthinkable. A number of Republicans in the House—Reps. John Katko, Adam Kinzinger, Fred Upton, and, most prominently, Liz Cheney—have thrown their support behind the effort. (CNN reported that the White House is pressuring lawmakers and that “they want to vote to impeach but they legitimately fear for their lives and their families’ lives.”) Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said in a statement that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has floated the idea of asking Trump to resign, decided against whipping votes on impeachment, according to the New York Times.

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More importantly, the Times reported Tuesday that McConnell has privately supported the idea of impeachment. A Senate Republican aide told the Times that around 20 Republicans were “open” to convicting Trump. So who are the senators who might deliver the votes? And what have they said? We’ve broken the list down, based on the likelihood of their support.

The Most Powerful Reported Supporter

Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
McConnell suddenly seems eager to move his party past Trumpism. According to Politico, McConnell associates blamed Trump, justifiably, for losing both Senate races in Georgia, and most senior Republicans saw the president’s attack on the election’s integrity as at least partly responsible. The Times reported that McConnell told his colleagues that he believed Trump had committed impeachable offenses and that he was happy that the Democrats were pursuing impeachment. Later on Tuesday, CNN confirmed the Times’ reporting. McConnell won’t face reelection for six more years, and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, resigned from that position after the riots. If he came out for impeachment, it’s possible a domino effect would follow. But is the calculating politician really going to move that aggressively against Trump?

The Usual Suspects

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
Murkowski became the first Republican senator to call on Trump to resign on Friday. “I want him out,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.” She told Alaska Public Media that Trump was responsible for the riot. She also told the Daily News that she questioned whether the Republican Party was “the party for me” if it “has become nothing more than the party of Trump.” Because of her state’s ranked-choice voting, she is in less danger of facing repercussions for breaking from Trump than most of her Republican colleagues.

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Susan Collins, Maine
Collins has also voiced outrage about Trump’s actions, but she has been more vague as to what she thinks the outcome should be. Writing in an op-ed for the Bangor Daily News, she blamed Trump for inciting the riot and complained about his assault on the democratic process. She has not yet commented on impeachment.

Mitt Romney, Utah
In 2019, Romney was the only Republican to break ranks with his party and vote to convict Trump of abusing power. He has hinted that he may vote against Trump again, saying in a statement that “when the president incites an attack against Congress, there must be a meaningful consequence.” He has also described the riot as an “insurrection” incited by Trump.

The Trump Critics 

Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania
Toomey has voiced doubts that impeachment would be “the best path forward,” but he feels no great loyalty to Trump. He was the second Republican senator to call for Trump’s resignation. He told CNN on Saturday that Trump “committed impeachable offenses” and said on Sunday that Trump might face “criminal liability” for his role in stoking the violence. He also said that Trump had “descended into a level of madness” since the election. Toomey, a conservative who occasionally voted against his party and sometimes criticized Trump, has already said he will not seek reelection in 2022.

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Ben Sasse, Nebraska
A frequent Trump critic, Sasse told CBS News that he would “definitely consider” impeachment articles brought by the House. “I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office. He swore an oath to the American people to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He acted against that,” Sasse, who was recently reelected to a second term, said. He added: “What he did was wicked.”

The Unlikely (but Possible)

Rob Portman, Ohio
Portman, a more moderate Republican, said in a statement that Trump “bears some responsibility” for the insurrection, “both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward.” He also said that if Trump did not speak out “unambiguously” given the threats of armed protests, he would be responsible for any other violence in Washington or at state capitols. He avoided questions about impeachment. He will be up for reelection in two years, making it less likely he will take a political risk on an impeachment vote.

Roy Blunt, Missouri
Blunt, the significantly less inflammatory senator from Missouri, is not likely to take a stand on impeachment, given he is up for reelection in 2022. He has also made it fairly clear from statements he gave on Friday: “It’s obviously just another political point trying to be made,” he told KSHB-TV in Kansas City. “It’s disappointing. It’d be much more disappointing if people can’t see through that.” He has, however, suggested the president might need to “think about” his responsibility for the riot. When asked by reporters, he said, “I think it was a tragic day, and he was part of it.” When he was asked what he wanted to hear from Trump, he responded, “I don’t want to hear anything.”

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Todd Young, Indiana*
Young, the chair of the GOP’s campaign arm, campaigned hard for Trump’s reelection. But when confronted by protesters earlier this month demanding he vote against the certification of the election, Young became visibly frustrated, telling them that “opinions don’t matter, the law matters.” He has not addressed the question of impeachment, and he declined to comment on the topic of Pence invoking the 25th Amendment “other than to affirm my confidence in the vice president of the United States and the patriotism of other Cabinet members.”

The Reluctant Trump Critics

Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia
“I think the president does own this,” Capito told reporters. “I did support the president, and I did support the policies, and I think the policies were good for West Virginia. But this is inexcusable. … The president was convincing people all along that it was stolen,” Capito said today. “The facts didn’t bear that out. He was using his power to convince them of a result that was never going to happen, which was to overturn the election and to force us into accepting that, into breaking our constitutional duties.” She also said that on a personal level, the experience that day had been “horrifying.”

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Richard Burr, North Carolina
“Today, America’s core principles were threatened by those seeking to forcibly stop our electoral process and overturn the results of a presidential election with which they disagreed,” Burr said in a statement after the riot. “The President bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point.” Burr will not seek reelection in 2022.

Mike Lee, Utah
“It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in 10 years in the Senate,” Lee said. He called the rioters “an angry, lawless mob” who should “rot in prison for the rest of your lives.” He also said he was “not pleased by the president’s words.”

The Wild Cards 

Jerry Moran, Kansas
Moran opposed efforts to overturn the election.

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Mike Rounds, South Dakota
Rounds also disagreed with objections to the Electoral College vote.

Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
Cassidy said he felt anger after his experience in lockdown. “You’re angry that people would assault our democracy,” he said.

Thom Tillis, North Carolina
“It’s a national disgrace to have a mob attacking Capitol Police and engaging in anarchy,” Tillis said. “This is not what America stands for.” Tillis may have more loyalty to McConnell, who recently helped him win reelection, than Trump.

Chuck Grassley, Iowa
“Right now, there’s very little opportunity for him to lead the Republican Party,” Grassley, the Senate president pro tempore, told reporters.

Joni Ernst, Iowa
Ernst said she thought it was time for the nation to “move on” and “heal,” but she also said, of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and their efforts to block the certification of the Electoral College vote, “I think history will not look kindly upon those that abdicated their constitutional authorities.” She also recently won a six-year term and may feel more loyalty to McConnell.

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Tom Cotton, Arkansas
After the riot, Cotton called on Trump to “stop misleading the American people.” He also said that “senators and representatives who fanned the flames by encouraging the president” and misleading their constituents should withdraw their objections to the vote certification.

John Thune, South Dakota
Thune has no reason to try to appease Trump, who called Thune a “RINO” whose “political career [is] over!!!” He also urged Gov. Kristi Noem to run against Thune in the 2022 primaries. Thune, who dismissed Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as nonsensical, isn’t considered at risk of a competitive primary challenge; Noem has already spoken out in support of Thune and said she would not run against him.

Correction, Jan. 13, 2021: This story originally misidentified Todd Young as a senator from Pennsylvania; he is from Indiana.

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