Democratic Senate Whip Says He Won't Recommend Colleagues Vote to Convict Trump

Democratic Senate Whip Says He Won't Recommend Colleagues Vote to Convict Trump
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) speaks in Washington on Oct. 15, 2020. (Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The Senate's No. 2 Democrat said Jan. 17 that he won't tell colleagues to vote to convict President Donald Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection.

"We haven't whipped it," Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "We will, of course, try to find out how members feel. But in terms of arm-twisting, when it comes to impeachment, you don’t do that."

Durbin, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said he agreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who reportedly told his caucus members that the upcoming vote will be a "vote of conscience."

"When it comes to an issue of this gravity and constitutional importance, members really have to follow their own conscience. It isn’t a matter of saying, come on, the team has to all vote together. It just doesn’t happen," Durbin said.

"This is the third time I will have sat through an impeachment trial. It’s not happened in the previous two times. And I don’t expect it this time as well."

The House of Representatives impeached Trump last week, alleging he "incited an insurrection." Every single Democrat voted to impeach Trump as well as 10 Republicans.

The Senate trial start date isn't clear. Durbin pushed back on charges that holding a trial after Trump leaves office, which he will do on Jan. 20, is unconstitutional, pointing to when President Ulysses S. Grant's secretary of war, William Worth Belknap, resigned in an effort to avoid being impeached. He was later impeached but acquitted in the Senate.

"So I think there's precedent to suggest that, even if Donald Trump's left town, he's still going to be held responsible for what happened Jan. 6," Durbin said.

The Senate will soon be 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Convicting Trump would require a two-thirds supermajority. No president in U.S. history has been convicted. Trump was impeached and acquitted earlier in his term.

McConnell has said he hasn't decided whether he'll vote to acquit or convict.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote in a letter to colleagues, part of which was made public by the senator’s office.