Members of the Republican Party’s leadership are considering how they will deal with their Donald Trump problem. After the riots at the U.S. Capitol building, some establishment figures seem to be salivating over the opportunity to push Trump out of the party and the conservative movement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is “telling colleagues that he himself hasn’t decided whether to vote to convict Trump on a House-passed article of impeachment and associates describe the GOP leader ‘as furious’ over that attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob,” according to The Hill. At one point, rumors swirled that McConnell was “pleased” about the effort to put Trump on trial even after he is out of office. However, the lawmaker described this as “speculation” in the press.
A significant number of GOP senators would probably prefer to break free of Trump, a controversial figure even before he took office. But these individuals cannot ignore the political risk they would face for supporting the effort to convict him.
“I don’t think it’s an easy call, but I think there would be a lot more Republican support evident if it were not linked to the Democrats’ clear desire to prevent him from running for office ever again,” said Vin Weber, a Republican strategist. “That’s the real question politically.”
To convict Trump, a two-thirds Senate vote would need at least 17 Republicans to support the effort, assuming that all 50 Democratic senators (including Independents) vote in favor of impeachment. A second vote would be held to prohibit Trump from running for president again. This latter choice would require a simple majority.
“If we take the step of banning Trump from running again, they’re not going to say anything’s been stolen. They’re simply going to say the power structure of the country has prevented our leader from running again and they’ll be right,” Weber added. “You’ve created an impossible situation in terms of trying to soften the divisions a little bit in the country and soften the vote on the hardcore pro-Trump side.”
Where Do Other GOP Senators Stand?
Many Republican senators have publicly stated that they do not intend to vote in favor of impeachment. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), who played an essential role in drafting the police reform bill in 2020, said impeaching Trump would damage efforts to promote unity.
In an interview with radio personality Hugh Hewitt, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) weighed in on the accusations that Trump incited the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building. “Should the president have said something faster to tell people not to, after they were [rioting], not to do it? Sure,” he said. “But did he tell people to go into the Capitol? Absolutely not.”
Still, a few Republican senators signaled that they would support the effort. “I believe that this president has committed an impeachable offense through his words on the sixth of January, and leading up to the sixth of January, when he was not honest to the American people about the election and the election results,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said during an interview on a local news channel.
What Will Happen Next?
At this point, it seems doubtful that there are the 17 Republican votes required to convict Trump and pretend to remove him from office. But does the establishment GOP need to cancel him?
Trump lost a significant chunk of support after the riots at the Capitol, but his base has remained mostly undeterred. Moreover, non-establishment types on the right, while not as gung-ho about Trump, will likely not see a reason to push him entirely out of the GOP and the conservative movement.
It is likely that if those in the establishment wing of the Republican Party push for conviction, it will hurt them far more than it will Trump. Polls suggest the majority of conservatives do not favor this action, and it may well backfire on any lawmaker who supports it. If members of the GOP establishment wish to cancel Trump, they might need to find a different way. Favoring trial and conviction may be a sure path to political suicide.
Read more from Jeff Charles.