GOP Senator Bill Cassidy on Tuesday broke from most of his party and voted to proceed with the second impeachment trial of former President Trump, saying that Trump’s legal team did a “terrible job” in presenting their case that the trial is unconstitutional.
“One side’s doing a great job. And the other side’s doing a terrible job on the issue at hand,” Cassidy said after House impeachment managers and the former president’s legal team presented their respective cases on moving forward with the trial.
“House managers were focused, they were organized,” and “made a compelling argument” that the impeachment trial is constitutional even though Trump has left office, the Louisiana Republican said.
“President Trump’s team were disorganized. They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over, almost as if they were embarrassed,” Cassidy added.
Cassidy’s vote was unexpected as he had previously voted with the majority of Republican senators last month for a point of order forced by Senator Rand Paul stating that moving forward with the trial was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
Other Republican senators expressed frustration that the defense offered by Trump’s lawyers verged on incoherent, particularly the presentation given by attorney Bruce Castor.
“The president’s lawyer, the first lawyer, just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas said.
Senator Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s staunchest allies until he left office, said he does not think Trump’s lawyers “did the most effective job.”
The Senate’s final vote was 56-44 that it is constitutional to proceed with the impeachment trial.
Apart from Cassidy, five other Republican senators voted with Democrats to proceed with the trial, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Even with Cassidy’s vote, Democrats are far from having enough Republican votes to convict Trump. At least 17 Republicans would have to defect from their party and join all 50 Democrats in voting to convict the former president. A conviction could bar Trump from ever running for office again.
The House voted largely along party lines last month in favor of impeaching Trump for “incitement of insurrection” over his rhetoric before and during the uprising at the Capitol last month, when Trump supporters forced their way past security and into the halls of Congress. The violence at the Capitol on January 6 ended with five dead, including one Capitol Hill police officer.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle condemned Trump’s rhetoric at a speech to supporters in front of the White House earlier in the day, but since then, Senate Republicans in large part have indicated they are ready to move on.