POLITICS

Here Are GOP Senators' Excuses For Blowing Off Trump's Impeachment Trial

"Welcome to the stupidest week in the Senate," said Sen. Kevin Cramer, who, like literally everyone, witnessed the ex-president incite a deadly insurrection.

We all saw it.

Senators serving as jurors this week in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial lived through it.

On Jan. 6, at a Washington, D.C., rally, Trump used violent imagery as he recited lies about the election being stolen from him and urged supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop Joe Biden from becoming president. So they did: They stormed the building and roamed the halls looking for members of Congress to kill to stop them from certifying the election results. Five people died. Two more Capitol Police officers who were there died by suicide. More than 140 police officers were injured. And the entire hourslong attack was documented on TV and social media.

Despite video evidence, despite rioters saying on camera that Trump told them to carry out the attack and despite literally everyone witnessing the nightmare scenario unfold in real time, most Republican senators say they’re still not convinced Trump incited the insurrection. The excuses they’ve come up with ― all of which are fueled by a fear of hurting their own political futures by criticizing Trump ― range from dismissing Congress’ constitutional right to hold an impeachment trial to blaming Hillary Clinton to saying the trial isn’t creating jobs to saying it’s probably Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s fault.

Here’s a look at Republican senators’ absurd reasons for letting Trump off the hook. This list will be inevitably be updated as more excuses pile up.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.)

“Welcome to the stupidest week in the Senate,” Cramer said in a Tuesday statement, calling it “disgusting” that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led the House’s impeachment of Trump, which included the support of 10 GOP lawmakers.

While Speaker Pelosi has backbenchers come before the Senate to make her case, she sent the rest of the House home instead of carrying on the actual work of the American people,” said Cramer, who even by mid-December was suggesting the election wasn’t valid. “Impeachment is not a process we should use flippantly. As a response to her view that Donald Trump demeaned the Office of the President, the House Speaker is now making a mockery of Congress and one of the most serious institutions in our country.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“The trial is of dubious merit and even more dubious constitutionality,” Paul wrote in a Tuesday op-ed on Fox News’ website, hours before a bipartisan Senate vote to affirm the constitutionality of Trump’s impeachment trial.

Paul lamented that time spent on an impeachment trial prevents senators from doing other things, like confirming presidential appointments. He also equated Trump telling supporters at his rally to “fight much harder” against “bad people,” and to “show strength” at the Capitol because “you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” with Sen. Cory Booker saying at a 2018 National Conference on Ending Homelessness that activists there should “please get up in the face of some congresspeople and tell them about common sense solutions” to homelessness.

“You either go after the Democrats who ‘incited violence’ or you say that political speech always inspires great passion, and the speaker is not responsible for the actions of the listener unless clearly calling for violence,” Paul said. “President Trump deserves the same standard as the other side.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

“The Constitution doesn’t allow” the Senate to try Trump, Hawley claimed Monday in an interview with Missouri TV station KTVO, a day before Democratic and Republican senators voted to affirm that they do have that constitutional right.

Hawley, who in January voted to overturn the presidential election based on the same lies about election fraud that fueled the insurrectionists, said Tuesday that the impeachment trial is “a terrible waste of time” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re going to shut down the entire Senate for at least a week, probably two weeks, maybe more, to call witnesses?” Hawley said to Capitol Hill reporters

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz, who in January voted to overturn the presidential election based on the same lies about election fraud that fueled the insurrectionists, said late last month that he already knew he’d vote to acquit Trump because impeachment is “petty,” and that it’s a slippery slope to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection because the next thing you know, all living presidents will be impeached.

“They hate Donald Trump,” Cruz told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, referring to Democrats impeaching Trump for the second time. “Apparently every January we’re going to be doing another impeachment. So I guess next year, I don’t know, maybe it’ll be the impeachment of Jimmy Carter, or the impeachment of Bill Clinton, or the impeachment of Barack Obama, because that’s what we do in Januaries.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

“I think it’s going through all the Republicans’ minds ― is, well, what about Hillary Clinton saying and telling Joe Biden, ‘Never concede?’” Johnson told reporters Wednesday during a break in the trial. 

Johnson, who repeatedly parroted the same lies about election fraud that fueled the insurrectionists’ attack, was referring to Clinton saying in an August 2020 interview that Biden should not concede in a close race because of efforts by Trump’s campaign to intimidate voters at the polls and prevent absentee ballots from being counted if they were received on Election Day.

“There has always been a huge double standard,” Johnson added, suggesting Clinton’s comments were on the same level as Trump lying about the election being stolen and telling supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight much harder” against the “bad people” certifying Biden’s win.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Graham told reporters Wednesday that he thinks GOP senators will be even more likely to vote to acquit Trump after seeing videos of the Capitol attack because protesters once came to his house and Democrats didn’t denounce it.

“Because hypocrisy is pretty large for these people, standing up to, you know, rioters when they came to my house, Susan Collins’ house, I think this is a very hypocritical presentation by the House,” he said, referring to peaceful protesters standing outside his house in late September with bells and whistles to protest his calls for Trump to quickly nominate someone to the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rather than let the winner of the November election pick her replacement.

Graham also blamed Capitol Police officers for not having killed more rioters that day.

“I got mad. I mean, these police officers had every right to use deadly force. They should have used it,” he told reporters. “The people in charge of securing the Capitol let the country down.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Scott, who in January voted to overturn the presidential election based on the same lies about election fraud that fueled the insurrectionists, said the impeachment trial is “vindictive” and “a complete waste of time” because it’s not helping people get jobs.

“Look, I’ve been clear that I wish the president had said something faster when they broke into it, but, you know, I’ve watched what he said. He’s never said when somebody should break in — [he] actually said that people should do this peacefully,” Scott told reporters Wednesday, suggesting Trump didn’t do anything wrong when he told supporters to peacefully attack the Capitol.

Bonus: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)*

“Everybody across this country” is to blame for the pro-Trump mob attacking the Capitol to thwart the presidential election results, McCarthy said in late January.

“Think about four years ago after President Trump was sworn in. What happened in the very next day? The title was ‘resist,’ with people walking in the streets, Maxine Waters saying to confront people, confront them in the restaurants. We had people, poor Steve [Scalise] got shot,” McCarthy said, referring to the House Republican Whip being shot in 2017 by a lone gunman.

McCarthy, who voted to overturn the presidential election based on the same lies about election fraud that fueled the insurrectionists, suggested everyone reflect on the things they’ve posted on Twitter and Facebook.

“What do we write on our social media? What do we say to one another? How do we disagree and still not be agreeable even when it comes to opinion?”

*He’s not a senator, but it’s good to know the highest-ranking House Republican thinks the Capitol insurrection is your fault.