With former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial expected to conclude on Saturday, a number of GOP senators have insisted that there is practically no way the former president will be convicted.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday that it is “crystal clear” that Trump will be found not guilty.
“I think the end result of this impeachment trial is crystal clear to everybody … Donald Trump will be acquitted,” Cruz told The Hill. “And every person in the senate chamber understands there are not the votes to convict him.”
Others to go on the record as saying that an acquittal is near-certain include Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
“The ‘Not Guilty’ vote is growing after today,” Graham wrote in a tweet Thursday. “I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd.”
At least 17 Republicans in the 100-seat chamber would have to join all 50 Democrats to convict Trump.
With initial presentations complete, the defense and prosecution could call witnesses on Saturday to support their cases. Neither side has said whether they will do so. After that, the respective teams get two hours each for closing statements, meaning that a final vote on conviction could come as soon as early afternoon on Saturday.
Last month, the House voted 232–197, including 10 Republicans, to impeach Trump on the sole charge of inciting an insurrection.
Trump’s lawyers have contended that the incitement of insurrection charge against Trump is not rooted in fact.
“An insurrection—unlike a riot—is an organized movement acting for the express purpose to overthrow and take possession of a government’s powers,” they wrote in filings, arguing that Trump’s speech “was not an act encouraging an organized movement to overthrow the United States government.”
Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. If convicted, the Senate could then vote to bar him from running for office again.
But, according to Graham, there is practically no chance of that happening, as GOP support for an acquittal has grown in the course of the trial. In an interview on Fox News, Graham denounced the violence that took place when a crowd breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but said the House impeachment managers’ presentation was marred by a partisan double standard that he and some of his Republican colleagues found objectionable.
“I don’t remember any of these House managers saying a damn thing when they were trying to break into my house and going after Susan Collins and spitting on all of us,” Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview.
Trump’s legal team on Friday accused legislators of hypocrisy as they played lengthy video montages of elected officials speaking about committing assault against Trump, threatening his supporters, and backing protests that turned violent. Daily Caller reporter Jordan Lancaster shared a condensed, 10-minute version of that video in a tweet.
Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that he had communicated his confidence to Trump that the former president would be acquitted.
“I reinforced to the president the case is over. It’s just a matter of getting the final verdict now,” Graham told reporters, The Hill reports.
House Democrats making the case for impeachment have argued that Trump set the stage for violence through repeated claims that the election results were fraudulent. They say he summoned a mob to Washington, gave the crowd its marching orders, and did nothing to stop the violence as it played out on television.
Trump’s defense lawyers have argued that Trump urged the crowd to demonstrate peacefully, and his Jan. 6 remarks about “fighting” were mere figures of speech no different from the kind that politicians typically make, and anyway allowable under First Amendment protections.
“I don’t know, at this point, how many minds get changed,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), told reporters on Friday.
Sen. Tim Scott told CNN that, “I think you get at best six Republicans—probably five and maybe six,” who will cast votes in favor of a conviction.
The six Republicans could be the ones who broke with their GOP colleagues Tuesday in voting that the impeachment trial was constitutional: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Lawmakers from both parties have said they would like to wrap the trial up quickly so they could move on to other business, such as confirmation votes on senior Biden administration officials and COVID-19 relief.