GOP senators praise impeachment managers but say Trump will be acquitted

Senate Republicans on Thursday were complimentary of the two-day presentation from House impeachment managers, but signaled that it won't change the ultimate outcome of the trial: former President Trump's acquittal.

The House team, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), wrapped on Thursday afternoon, after hours of opening arguments that included a detailed timeline of Jan. 6 events and new video footage of the attack on the Capitol that day.

Republicans acknowledged that they thought the presentation was effective, while adding that they didn't think it changed many minds and nowhere near the number needed to make Trump the first U.S. president to be convicted.

"I think they did a good job. I don't believe the facts are largely in dispute about what happened that day or the nature of what happened,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“The fundamental question for me, and I don't know about everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don't believe that it is. I believe it sets a very dangerous precedent,” Rubio added.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who has said he believes the impeachment trial is unconstitutional, said he thought the House managers “put forward a good case.”

“Obviously, it was their side, their perspective,” he said.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said that he thought Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D-Calif.) line about being concerned not about Trump running again and winning but Trump running again and losing was “a very powerful statement.”

“I know I wrote that down. I know a number of my colleagues did. But once again, the issue for most of us is: Are you asking us to do something that we simply don't have the capability of doing because the Constitution does not give us that tool with regard to a private citizen?” Rounds said.

Democrats on Thursday emphasized their belief that unless the Senate convicts Trump, he could go on to incite future violence.

Over the past two days, they repeatedly argued that Trump was the primary driver of the deadly mob that stormed the Capitol.

Senators were visibly shaken on Jan. 6 and several Republicans fumed at Trump in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which required senators to evacuate the chamber and shelter in place for hours.

But since then it’s become apparent that there is not enough support within the Senate to convict Trump.

Only a handful of GOP senators are viewed as potential “yes” votes on convicting Trump. None have announced that they will, as they wait for Trump’s team to present its opening argument Friday.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who surprised his colleagues when he voted this week to proceed with the trial, said he wanted to hear from Trump’s lawyers.

But, he noted that he thought the House impeachment managers had “done very well.”

“I think that's generally conceded,” Cassidy said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another potential swing vote, urged Trump’s legal team to match the detailed presentation of the House impeachment managers.

“I hope they'll be as specific as the House managers were — who went through the evidence, provided legal arguments and gave a very thorough presentation,” Collins said.

But even if every Democrat votes to find Trump guilty, it would still take 17 GOP senators to convict him. If the Senate successfully convicted him, it would only a simple majority in a subsequent vote to bar him from holding office again.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he didn’t think the House impeachment managers changed minds among Republicans who have already decided to vote to acquit.

"You know, I don't think so. I think that when you have two votes that preceded the one we're going to make, there's a lot within that that tells you kind of where we're going to be,” Braun said.

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said the House impeachment managers didn’t change his mind on the trial being unconstitutional.

“Well, my view is unchanged as to whether or not we have the authority to do this, and I'm certainly not bound by the fact that, you know … 56 people think we do. I get to cast my vote and my view is that you can impeach a former president,” he said on Thursday.

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who was part of a group of GOP senators who met with Trump’s legal team Thursday, predicted that the trial will end in Trump’s acquittal.

“I think the end result of this impeachment trial is crystal clear to everybody … Donald Trump will be acquitted,” he said. “And every person in the senate chamber understands there are not the votes to convict him.”