WASHINGTON ― Despite Democratic impeachment managers laying out a methodical case on Wednesday, Senate Republicans seem intent as ever on acquitting Donald Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
House Democrats spent hours Wednesday showing how Trump, in their words, summoned, assembled and incited the mob to storm the Capitol. The former president was “no innocent bystander,” lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said, adding that he “surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection.”
“He told them to ‘fight like hell’ and they brought us hell that day,” Raskin said.
The evidence included dozens of Trump tweets and statements prior to the attack ― some casting doubt on the 2020 presidential election results, some telling supporters to come to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and “fight like hell” to stop the Electoral College certification. And Democratic impeachment managers presented statements from the rioters themselves that, in the words of Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), showed they were “following the president’s orders.”
But none of that seemed to matter to GOP senators. Republicans spent breaks in between the presentations telling reporters that they were all ready to vote.
“I don’t think there’s anything that’s been said by either side that has changed any votes,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told HuffPost at one point Wednesday afternoon. “There’s nothing that I have heard during this process that I hadn’t already heard.”
When HuffPost pressed Inhofe if there was anything that could change his mind, he said no.
“Not from anything that I have seen so far, and I can’t imagine what else is out there,” Inhofe said.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who led the effort to contest the 2020 election in Congress, said he believed that holding a trial for a former president is unconstitutional ― a dubious view the Senate rejected in a bipartisan vote on Tuesday ― and that no evidence would convince him of Trump’s guilt.
“There’s nothing new here, for me, at the end of the day,” Hawley said. “I think that we don’t have jurisdiction as a court in order to pursue this, so nothing that I’ve seen changes my view on that, and if you don’t have jurisdiction, that’s just the end of the call.”
Hawley spent much of the day alone in the public gallery above the Senate floor, which officials had made available to senators to accommodate for social distancing and reading documents while Democrats presented their case. While Hawley didn’t seem to be paying attention to the floor proceedings, he did note that his view from the gallery afforded him the opportunity to watch senator reactions from above.
“It’s interesting to sort of see people taking notes or not,” Hawley said.
To Hawley’s point, a number of Democrats spent Wednesday taking notes and paying close attention to the presentation, while most Republicans seemed uninterested and unengaged, sitting back in their seats or reading unrelated documents.
Republicans seem resolute on acquitting Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday that he had talked to Trump the previous night, and he promised the former president that Republicans wouldn’t convict.
“The case is over,” Graham told Trump.
Republicans have a long history of excusing Trump’s behavior. Whether it’s “Access Hollywood” tapes where Trump says he can grab women by their genitals with impunity, or the near-daily tweets and acts of embarrassment, or a phone call where Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into a political rival, Republican senators have stood by Trump. And even before this trial officially started, 44 of 50 GOP Senators said the trial couldn’t even be held, despite clear precedent and a strong case from Democrats.
In fact, the entire trial seems to be a fait accompli.
Sen. Ron Johson (R-Wis.) used his time with the press Wednesday not addressing the facts of the case, but by saying he wished the proceedings would wrap up quickly.
Under Senate rules, both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team are allotted eight hours for opening arguments. The former president’s attorneys will begin their presentation on Thursday, but they may decide not to use all their time.
“You can do it in a couple hours and be done with this. But that’s not what’s going to happen unfortunately,” Johnson said. “This is pretty obvious this is a political exercise.”
Only six Republican senators have expressed some level of openness to the case against Trump, including Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who surprised observers by voting with Democrats to affirm the constitutionality of the impeachment trial on Tuesday. But the Louisiana Republican, who elicited a rebuke from his state Republican Party, said his vote to let the trial proceed was not indicative of his stance on conviction.
“This does not predict my vote or anything else,” Cassidy said. “It does predict that I will listen to these arguments as I did to the arguments yesterday, with an open mind.”
That would seem to be a minority view among Republicans.
As Inhofe told HuffPost Wednesday, “we come in with our natural biases.”