WASHINGTON – Democrats will need at least 17 Republican senators to indict President Donald Trump after his impeachment on Wednesday, a high barrier that would need to change the minds of lawmakers who stand behind him.
It is more than 10 House Republicans who broke up with the president – the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history – who accused Trump of inciting the rebellion.
Even Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell publicly endorses with conviction for Trump’s role in a deadly attack on the Capitol that targeted him and his staff, the GOP to vote for punishment Getting a third of the Senate caucus will not be an easy task.
Trump maintains a high approval rating and a sentiment among some Republican voters. He still holds a 71 percent approval rating with GOP voters in a Quinnipiac poll that followed the riots.
Convincing Trump could prevent the Senate from ever seeking him for elected office, immediately re-shaping the 2024 Republican presidential primary he could otherwise run.
But impeachment is inherently a political matter and even a trial that will take place after the end of Trump’s term will be rife with political reckoning, both for senators who may seek re-election and who are themselves presidents. Can bid for the position.
The Republicans now control the Senate, but Democrats take office after being sworn in as the new president on January 20. The draw-out trial could disrupt Biden’s early days in office, which could be a feature or bug for various senators.
Once the Senate seats all the newly elected members, the chamber will split 50-50 and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will cast a tie-breaking vote.
Some of the Republican senators have already criticized Trump and indicated they would be open to supporting impeachment. But to secure a conviction, more votes will be needed and supporters will likely have to look to senators who are retiring or are other longtime members who are seen as institutional.
But it is likely to be difficult.
The result could come from McConnell, who has a deep storehouse of trust within his caucus. If they were to be punished, they could lead more reluctant senators to follow suit.
But for now, the Kentucky Republican is unspecified.
According to the spokesperson, he wrote to colleagues on Wednesday afternoon, “how I will vote and I do not intend to hear legal arguments when presented in the Senate.”
McConnell and Trump have a complex relationship – polar opposites in personality, allies in certain policy objectives. McConnell broke up with Trump last week, prompting a sentimental plea to reject attempts to quash the presidential election.
McConnell is not in a hurry to stand trial – his office indicated that he would not return to the Senate before January 19. This means that the test is all but guaranteed to conclude under a Biden presidency and Democratic-control Senate.
Faction in impeachment trial
Liam Donovan, a lobbyist and former Senate Republican campaign operative, said McConnell’s apparent willingness to consider the sentence “abruptly replaces an unimaginable pause with Trump that is very much in play.”
“I doubt if only 17 is a challenging number,” Donovan said. “McConnell’s Impermeatur alone will carry a ton of weight.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is most likely seen as a Republican to support the sentence, as he was the only member of his party who voted to remove Trump from office at the first impeachment trial last year. In addition, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowsk and retired Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Tom Tommy have said Trump should resign. Centrist Maine Sen. Susan Collins could be a viable target. And Nebraska Sen. Ben Sas has said he is open to impeachment.
After those five, it becomes difficult.
One group may be octogenarian institutionalists who can monitor retirement: Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe.
Other targets may be senators, who were critical of Trump’s attempt to reverse the election, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. Sen. Richard Bure of North Carolina is retiring.
It still won’t be enough.
The two wild cards are Mike Lee of Utah Sen. and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul of Utah. He has presented himself as a “constitutional conservative” and was unwilling to vote with Trump even before the riots erupted, as the riot dissolved the Capitol. But both have greatly supported Trump and Paul faces voters in dark red Kentucky next year.
The important question is then how much McConnell would insist on bringing impeachment to fellow Republicans – and how many people would be willing to follow him. Two members of his leadership team, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and South Dakota Sen. John Thun, face a reunion in 2022 and risk a primary challenge.
Two others, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, have more time before they will face voters again and may be more willing to follow McConnell.
McConnell’s position may also garner votes from rank and file senators such as North Dakota Sen., Kevin Kramer, and South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds. But the highly charged politics and deep fractures shaking the GOP can scrape any specific calculation.
A senior Republican aide told NBC News that there would probably be votes to convict Trump if McConnell is on board. But a former Senate GOP staffer said he might need to work for it.
“If McConnell had said ‘I’m voting to plead guilty’, but it’s conscience, it’s still hard to get it to 17. The former aide who maintains a relationship with the former president said , “They must do this work. Offered a clear assessment on condition of anonymity. “This is a situation where you might get an easy 10 votes. But 11 to 17 is probably harder.”