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Some Republicans are receptive to Democrats’ impeachment arguments — but that will all change on Friday

'It doesn’t matter how many videos of Mitt Romney or Chuck Schumer fleeing for their lives they show,' one aide said, because GOP primary voters 'wouldn’t have cared if either of them had been caught by rioters and executed'

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Friday 12 February 2021 14:28 GMT
GOP senator demands Trump call evidence be stricken

With eight hours left to present arguments in support of the Senate voting to convict former President Donald Trump, House Democrats have a plan. Specifically, sources say they will aim to use their remaining time to present more evidence of Trump’s lack of remorse for his role in the attempted insurrection and the national harm brought about by the entire episode. 

“Trials are easy when you have the goods. We definitely have the goods, and we’ll be bringing them home today,” said one aide to the House Democrats’ team of impeachment managers during a briefing with reporters early Thursday.

Those “goods” include the raw, emotional presentation of evidence both newly discovered and meticulously compiled. These range from security video showing how close some Senators came to being trapped by rioters who were calling for the death of the Vice President and Speaker of the House to a sequence of media reports (including reporting from The Independent) laid out by Virgin Islands delegate Stacey Plaskett, showing how Trump could not have been unaware of the potential for violence that day. 

To be sure, the case laid out by ex-constitutional law professor Rep. Jamie Raskin and his team is far more compelling and easier to understand for both Senators and so-called normal people than the one argued before the Senate just one year ago.

Instead of largely abstract arguments about foreign policy and whistleblower complaints, Senators on Wednesday were confronted with evidence of their own near-brushes with death.

Instead of listening to hypothetical discussions of what could happen if a president were allowed to get away with intimidating a foreign leader into announcing a sham investigation of a political opponent, the Senate watched heretofore-unseen security video depicting how Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman — already lauded for leading rioters away from the unsecured Senate chamber doors — prevented Utah Senator Mitt Romney from walking straight into the path of pro-Trump rioters. 

Rather than consider arguments of whether a president’s attempt to coerce a foreign leader into assisting his re-election effort could have been made out of a sincere desire to advance the country’s interest, Senators saw Capitol Police officers block the path of rioters with their bodies, allowing them to escape the chamber before it was overrun. 

But when it comes to impeachments of Donald Trump, some things never change.

Just like the last time he stood trial before the Senate, there are phone calls. There’s the phone call he placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he threatened the Peace State’s top election official with criminal charges unless he “found” a sufficient number of votes to flip it back into Trump’s electoral vote column.  Not only did Plaskett make it part of her presentation on Wednesday, but according to multiple news outlets, Georgia authorities are now investigating whether Trump’s entreaties to Raffensperger violated any provisions of the state’s criminal code.

And there’s the phone call Trump made during the attack on the Capitol to Utah’s senior Senator Mike Lee. According to Plaskett, Trump mistakenly dialed him thinking he was reaching Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville, who he hoped would continue making objections to various states’ electoral votes in order to delay certification of Biden’s victory.

The latter call provided a bit of unexpected drama late Wednesday, when Lee made a show of angrily demanding that Plaskett’s description of the presidential call to his mobile phone be stricken from the record, even though he had previously described the events in question to his hometown newspaper, the Deseret News.

And despite Democrats’ best efforts, one thing that has not changed from the last time Trump was in the Senatorial dock is Republicans’ resistance to taking any action that would amount to a rebuke of the man who, in Democrats’ telling, sent hordes of MAGA hat-wearing insurrectionists to assault their workplace and bring his enemies — including Pence — to purpose-built gallows they’d erected on the Capitol grounds. 

While some Republicans — including South Dakota’s John Thune, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy — have taken pains to at least appear open-minded about convicting the former president, the vast majority of the Senate Republican Conference is impervious to any evidence Democrats could present.

According to one aide to a senior Senate Republican, this is in part because the evidence is being presented by Democrats, and because the rabidly pro-Trump members of the GOP conference felt that they themselves were never under threat.

“It doesn’t matter how many videos of Mitt Romney or Chuck Schumer fleeing for their lives they show,” the aide explained. “There’s so much hostility towards anyone… who is seen as receptive to arguments from the other side that their voters — at least their primary voters — wouldn’t have cared if either of them had been caught by rioters and executed.”

Some Republicans — perhaps even more than one might initially expect — say they remain receptive to the Democrats’ presentation. But another veteran Senate aide — this one serving under a Democrat — predicted that even those who might have at least been emotionally affected by watching replays of January 6th will have their minds closed by what Trump’s lawyers will present on Friday. 

“Seeing rioters in ‘our house’ will make them angry… even angry enough at Trump to consider convicting,” they said. “But as soon as Trump’s team starts playing videos of Black protesters and Black members of Congress saying the sorts of things that get replayed on Fox News for weeks afterwards, they’ll remember that we [Democrats] are their enemy and that Trump and the rioters who support him are their friends.”

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