Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, downplayed the significance of a 55-to-45 Senate vote in which just five GOP senators voted with Democrats to say that former President Donald Trump‘s second impeachment trial would be constitutional.
In late January, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky pushed through a Senate vote to put lawmakers on the record as to whether they viewed the pending trial for Trump to be constitutional. Only GOP Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania voted with Democrats—rejecting the suggestion from Paul and some other conservatives that the trial would be unconstitutional. Although Cassidy voted in favor of Paul’s resolution, he pushed back against the widespread assessment of the vote as pre-determining the outcome of the trial.
“I think it’s important to understand the nature of that vote. It was called two hours before it. There was no debate and no explanation from either side,” Cassidy explained during an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday. “It was a vote in a moment of time. And so, based upon what senators knew at that point and felt at that point, they then voted. But we will now have, hopefully, presentations from both sides, and we will consider the evidence as impartial jurors,” he added.
Cassidy asserted that he did not view the 55-to-45 vote on Paul’s resolution as revealing how senators would vote when it comes to whether or not to convict Trump.
“I think it depends upon that which is presented,” the Republican senator said, before pivoting to criticize House Democrats for moving so rapidly with the impeachment vote. He argued that they should have given more time for the process to play out and additional evidence to be presented.
“Hopefully, they’ll build a case and bring it to us. But again, process is important. And we have to see that process played out,” Cassidy said. “And the [former] president should have his counsel. That’s just the way our system works.”
Newsweek reached out to Cassidy’s press secretary for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.
A poll published Sunday by ABC News/Ipsos showed that a majority of Americans (56 percent) believe Trump should be convicted and barred from holding future elected office by the Senate. The former president was impeached for a second time by the House of Representatives last month for his role in helping to incite a violent insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. Five people died in that violence, which was aimed at overturning the election victory of President Joe Biden.
But Toomey, who voted in favor of the constitutionality of the impeachment trial, told CNN on Sunday that he sees a Trump conviction as “very unlikely.” The Pennsylvania Republican, who is not seeking re-election in 2022, said in January that Trump had committed “impeachable offenses” and called on the former president to resign.
While some Republicans have argued that the Senate trial would not be constitutional due to Trump now being out of office, most legal scholars agree that it is a constitutionally-approved effort to prosecute the former president’s actions. Additionally, precedent suggests that it’s constitutional, as the Senate previously convicted a federal official after he had resigned.