February 27, 2021

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The 43 Republicans’ Explanations of Their Votes Not to Convict Trump in Impeachment Trial

On Saturday, the Senate voted 57-43 in the second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. A deep look into the reasons each of the 43 Republican senators gave for their vote holds some lessons. 

In this article, we provide the text for each of the 43 senators’ statements (where available) and classify those statements according to whether the senator took a position on the merits of the case against Trump. Some senators clearly voted in support of Trump’s defense against the allegations. Other senators, however, indicated that the House Managers proved their case but that the senator did not vote to convict on the theory that the Senate lacked jurisdiction to try a former president. Other senators gave no indication of their views on the merits, but also said the Senate lacked jurisdiction to decide. Indeed, one of the implications of this analysis is that, as a matter of law, it is technically inaccurate to call many of these 43 senators’ decisions a vote to “acquit,” at least not on the question of guilt or innocence. Indeed, over half of the 43 senators were either critical of Trump or expressed neither criticism nor support for him on the merits (e.g., Groups A, C & D below). Of the 100 senators who did reach the question of guilt or innocence, an enormous majority voted to convict. 

Several of the 43 senators who made highly critical statements about Trump’s actions may, indeed, now support other forms of accountability. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, for example, offers another option for disqualifying Trump from holding future office. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said on Sunday, “A number of Republicans have already come out and said there should be further accountability, whether through a criminal trial or through some other path towards being barred from office.” Whether that includes any of the 43 is not clear as of this writing. But the 43 Republican senators’ explanations of their votes may indicate how receptive they are to such legislative action.

If you believe we missed anything, email us at [email protected].

Here’s a breakdown of the 43 Republican senators.

Critical of Trump (13 senators):

A. Jurisdiction-Based Objections AND Critical of Trump: 8
B
. Jurisdiction-and Merits-Based Objections AND Critical of Trump: 5

Neutral: Neither Critical nor Supportive of Trump (19 senators):

C. Jurisdiction-Based Objections AND No Showing of Criticism/Support of Trump: 14
D. Jurisdiction-and Procedural Objections AND No Showing of Criticism/Support of Trump: 3
E. Unclear or Mixed Rationales AND No Showing of Criticism/Support of Trump: 2

Supportive of Trump (11 senators):

F. Jurisdiction-Based Objections AND Support of Trump: 0
G. Jurisdiction-and Merits-Based Objections AND Support of Trump: 7

Not Available (4 senators):

H. Statements on Explanation of Vote Not Available: 4

Stated Rationales:

  • Jurisdiction-Based Objections: 23
  • Jurisdiction-and Merits-Based Objections: 15
  • Unclear Rationale: 1
  • Statements on Explanation of Vote Not Available: 4

Explanation of Votes: Statements of the 43 Republican Senators

Critical of Trump on the Merits (13 senators)

A. Jurisdiction-Based Objections AND Critical of Trump: 8 senators relied entirely on the rationale that the Senate does not have the constitutional jurisdiction to try a former president. However, these 8 senators criticized Trump’s actions as alleged by the House Impeachment Managers. Some of these criticisms are mild; others are scathing; and others in-between. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Sen. John Boozman (AR):

“While the former President Donald Trump bears some responsibility for what happened that day…I maintain my belief that the constitutional legitimacy of this impeachment trial was lacking.” Source

Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (WV):

“Our Constitution references that impeachment was designed to remove an officeholder from public office—not a private citizen. Given that President Trump no longer holds public office, my ‘no’ vote today is based solely on this constitutional belief… The actions and reactions of President Trump were disgraceful, and history will judge him harshly.Source

Sen. John Hoeven (ND):

“The Founding Fathers designed impeachment as a way to remove a President from office. That is why I believe it is unconstitutional and voted against trying to apply impeachment to a former president, after he has left office…President Trump should not have encouraged the protest on January 6, but those rioters who broke the law are responsible for their actions…” Source

Sen. Jerry Moran (KS):

“President Trump was wrong to continue to spread allegations of widespread fraud and not immediately discourage the reprehensible and unpatriotic behavior… I believe the impeachment process is intended to be used for considering whether or not ‘The President’ should be removed from office…I voted to acquit.” Source

Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY):

Former President Trump’s actions that preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty…There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day… There is no limiting principle in the constitutional text that would empower the Senate to convict and disqualify former officers that would not also let them convict and disqualify any private citizen. ...The Senate’s decision today does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day.” Source

Sen. Rob Portman (OH):

“What President Trump did that day was inexcusable because in his speech he encouraged the mob, and that he bears some responsibility for the tragic violence that occurred. I have also criticized his slow response as the mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, putting at risk the safety of Vice President Pence, law enforcement officers, and others who work in the Capitol. Even after the attack, some of the language in his tweets and in a video showed sympathy for the violent mob.
The question I must answer is not whether President Trump said and did things that were reckless and encouraged the mob. I believe that happened. The threshold question I must answer is whether a former president can be convicted by the Senate in the context of an impeachment. This would be unprecedented.” Source

Sen. Dan Sullivan (AK):

“I strongly believe the Senate does not have jurisdiction to try a former President who is now a private citizen…I also condemn former President Trump’s poor judgment in calling a rally on that day, and his actions and inactions when it turned into a riot…” Source

Sen. John Thune (SD):

My vote to acquit should not be viewed as exoneration for his conduct on January 6, 2021, or in the days and weeks leading up to it. What former President Trump did to undermine faith in our election system and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power is inexcusable. But he is no longer president. The Constitution is clear that the primary purpose of impeachment is removal from office…” Source

B. Jurisdiction and Merits-Based Objections AND Critical of Trump: 5 senators voted to acquit, relying on several objections (e.g. jurisdiction, due process, First Amendment, merits). However, these 5 senators also did criticize Trump’s actions. 

Sen. John Cornyn (TX):

“This trial reminded us that too many public officials, including the President, have used reckless and incendiary speech…The arguments of the House Impeachment Managers that the Constitution permits the impeachment of a private citizen, the free speech protections of the First Amendment don’t apply, the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment is optional, and that the trial may include a presiding officer who also serves as a juror all were a bridge too far.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, Trial Proceedings, First Amendment, Due Process, 

Sen. Kevin Cramer (ND):

“I do not believe the Constitution gives us the authority to hold an impeachment trial for a former president who is now a private citizen…the House Managers failed to establish a direct line between the January 6 attacks on the United States Capitol and the former President’s public statements and remarks…President Trump is also afforded the First Amendment right of free speech like every American…The January 6 attacks on the Capitol were appalling, and President Trump’s remarks were reckless, but based on the evidence presented in the trial, he did not commit an impeachable offense. Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, First Amendment, Merits

Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA):

“While the ultimate responsibility for this attack rests upon the shoulders of those who unlawfully entered the Capitol, everyone involved must take responsibility for their destructive actions that day, including the former president. As the leader of the nation, all presidents bear some responsibility for the actions that they inspire — good or bad. Undoubtedly, then-President Trump displayed poor leadership in his words and actions. I do not defend those actions and my vote should not be read as a defense of those actions.

F
irst and foremost, I don’t think this impeachment is proper under the Constitution…. In the end I do not think we have the ability to try a former president.

T
he House Managers tried to prove that President Trump incited an insurrection. That is a difficult argument to make. There were many other articles over which they could have impeached President Trump but this is what the House of Representatives chose. They didn’t meet their burden.

He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count. My vote in this impeachment does nothing to excuse or justify those actions. There’s no doubt in my mind that President Trump’s language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible.

Unfortunately, others share the blame in polluting our political discourse with inflammatory and divisive language. As President Trump’s attorneys showed, whatever we heard from President Trump, we had been hearing from Democrats for years.

… he should have been accorded the protections of due process of law in his trial. And even if we assume he has been, the House Managers still did not prove that he committed incitement to insurrection, the specific crime of which he stands accused. This does not excuse President Trump’s conduct on and around January 6th of this year…” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction,  Due Process, Merits

Sen. Mike Lee (UT):

No one can condone… President Trump’s words, actions, and omissions on that day…The fact is that the word ‘incitement’ has a very specific meaning in the law, and Donald Trump’s words and actions on January 6, 2021, fell short of that standard. The House rushed its impeachment without an investigation, charged President Trump with a crime it failed properly to allege, and then sat on its poorly worded Article until after he left office.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Merits

Sen. Thom Tillis (NC):

“My vote was based on two fundamental issues with the impeachment process. The first being the decision to hold a trial for a private citizen, and the second being the charge itself…The most serious aspect of President Trump’s conduct was not necessarily what he said in the lead-up to the attack of the Capitol, but the leadership he failed to provide to put an end to it, and yet the House curiously chose not to file a charge or build their case around this point.

“It is important to note that a not guilty verdict is not the same as being declared innocent. President Trump is most certainly not the victim here; his words and actions were reckless and he shares responsibility for the disgrace that occurred on January 6.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, First Amendment

Neutral: Neither Critical nor Supportive of Trump on the Merits (19 senators)

C. Jurisdiction-Based Objections AND No Showing of Criticism/Support of Trump: 14 senators voted to acquit, relying on the rationale that the Senate does not have the Constitutional jurisdiction to impeach a former president. These 14 senators neither supported nor criticized Trump. 

Sen. John Barrasso (WY):

From day one, and consistent with my duty to the Constitution, I opposed this impeachment trial of a private citizen and former president. Today I voted for acquittal.” Source

Sen. Roy Blunt (MO)

I believe the constitutional purpose for presidential impeachment is to remove a president from office, not to punish a person after they have left office. No consideration was given to impeaching President Nixon when he resigned in 1974. The Constitution hasn’t changed and the Congress should not set a new, destructive precedent. Source

Sen. Steve Daines (MT):

I voted to acquit President Trump of a second impeachment because I believe the trial was unconstitutional. I do not believe the Senate has the authority to remove a former President from office who is no longer in office.” Source

Sen. Joni Ernst (IA):

The Constitution clearly states that impeachment is for removing  a president from office…. Donald Trump is no longer in office, he is a private citizen.Source

Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK):

My plain reading of Article II, Section IV of the Constitution led me to believe that the Founders did not intend for us to impeach and try former presidents, which is why today I voted to acquit former President Trump.” Source

Sen. James Lankford (OK):

“I cannot support removing someone from office who is not in office. An impeachment trial after someone has left office is unconstitutional.Source

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (WY):

“From the start, I made it clear that I believed this exercise was an unconstitutional distraction.” Source

Sen. Jim Risch (ID):

“The purpose of the constitutional authority of impeachment is to remove the president from office. The person Democrats attempted to impeach was no longer in office. The United States Senate has no jurisdiction over a private citizen and thus impeachment was and is impossible.” Source

Sen. Mike Rounds (SD):

“I am convinced that the Senate does not have jurisdiction to render a judgement against the former president. Therefore, I voted not guilty.” Source

Sen. Marco Rubio (FL):

“The Senate does not have the Constitutional power to convict a former official. And even if we did we should be very reluctant to use it.” Source

Sen. Rick Scott (FL):

“Democrats in Congress… pushed forward with an unconstitutional impeachment trial.” Source

Sen. Richard Shelby (AL):

“The Constitution speaks of removing a sitting president, not a private citizen…. That is why today, I voted to acquit.” Source

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (AL):

“After hearing the arguments presented, I voted to not convict for a number of reasons, including the fact that I don’t think the Senate has the authority to try a private citizen.Source

Sen. Roger Wicker (MS):

“I am convinced that impeachment was intended only as a means of removing presidents and other officials from office.”  Source

D. Jurisdiction-and-Procedural Objections AND No Showing of Criticism/Support of Trump: 3 senators voted to acquit, relying on jurisdiction and procedural issues (e.g., due process grounds). These 3 senators neither supported nor criticized former President Trump. 

Sen. Mike Crapo (ID):

“This week’s trial was unconstitutional. The House’s impeachment proceeding blatantly violated established guarantees of due process. Furthermore, the plain text of the Constitution limits impeachment to current civil officers of the United States….” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, Due Process

Sen. Deb Fischer (ME):

“It remains true that Congress simply does not have the constitutional authority to impeach a former president. And rather than take its take time [sic] to hold hearings and assess all evidence, the House had a rushed impeachment process that denied President Trump due process. Accordingly, I voted to acquit President Trump.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction,  Due Process

Sen. Todd Young (IN):

“It is improper under the present circumstances for the former president of the United States to be subject to an impeachment trial…House of Representatives conducted a rushed and incomplete process for this snap impeachment.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction,  Due Process

E. Unclear or Mixed Rationales AND No Showing of Criticism/Support of Trump: One senator (Johnson) voted to acquit and was vague in his rationale. He neither supported nor criticized former President Trump. Another Senator (Braun) included the First Amendment without specifying more on the merits. Sen. Braun’s is a borderline case, in which reference to the First Amendment might be considered support for Trump on the merits of the president’s actions.

Sen. Mike Braun (IN):

“I believe it is unconstitutional to hold a trial to remove a former President from an office he no longer holds and feel a vote to convict would have deep negative implications for the First Amendment and due process.” Source

Sen. Ron Johnson (WI):

“The Democrats’ vindictive and divisive political impeachment is over. While there are still many questions that remain unanswered, I do know neither the Capitol breach nor this trial should have ever occurred. Hopefully, true healing can now begin.” Source

Supportive of Trump on the Merits (11 senators)

F. Jurisdiction-Based Objections AND Support of Trump: 0

G. Jurisdiction-and Merits-Based Objections AND Support of Trump: 7 senators voted to acquit, relying on several objections (e.g. Jurisdiction, Due Process, First Amendment, Trump’s innocence). These 7 senators explicitly supported Trump.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (TN)

“The House Impeachment Managers launched an unconstitutional show trial to humiliate the former President and his supporters.

“The Impeachment Managers have accomplished nothing but to extend the pain of the American people. They achieved one thing – Donald J. Trump’s acquittal.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Merits

Sen. Ted Cruz (TX):

“I was against the Senate taking jurisdiction in this trial from the start, as the House had chosen to impeach without providing due process or introducing evidence…Donald Trump used heated language, but he did not urge anyone to commit acts of violenceSource

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, Due Process, Evidentiary

Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC):

“In their drive to convict former President Trump, the House Managers totally ignored bedrock legal standards. No hearings in the House of Representatives. No witnesses. No testimony. And the outrageous claim the First Amendment does not apply to political speech. Due process, at even the most basic level could have avoided this debacle.” Source

“CHRIS WALLACE:  Does Donald Trump bear any responsibility for the attack on the Capitol on January 6th?

GRAHAM:  No, in terms of the law, no. He bears responsibility of pushing narratives about the election that I think are not sound and not true, but this was politically protected speech. The speech on January the 6th was not an incitement to violence. Every politician has used the word fight, fight hard, so I don’t think that he caused the riot.

His behavior after the election was over the top. There was a preplanned element to this attack, Mr. Wallace, that we need to look at. Did Nancy Pelosi know on January the 5th that there was a threat to the Capitol? What did President Trump do after the attack? We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time.

And I thought the managers failed miserably in making the case.” (Fox News Sunday interview).

Reason for Acquitting: Due Process, First Amendment, Merits

Sen. Bill Hagerty (TN):

“I voted to acquit President Trump because the article of impeachment was unconstitutional. But it was also unsubstantiated by the House managers’ complete lack of investigation, smoke-and-mirrors presentation, and distortion of basic First Amendment principles.Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, First Amendment 

Sen. Hyde-Smith (MS):

“First, the impeachment of a former President is not part of the Constitution, which states clearly that ‘impeachment shall not extend further than to remove from office.’  Donald Trump is no longer the President. Second, I believe the defense team proved conclusively that President Trump’s speech on January 6 neither implicitly nor explicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action.” Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction, First Amendment

Sen. John Kennedy (LA):

“The merits of the Democrats’ case were not even close. The Democrats afforded the president no due process in the House… Second, the president is no longer the president. We were asked to impeach a guy in Florida. The Democrats never proved jurisdiction. Third, the Democrats charged President Trump with inciting a riot through his speech, but then the Democrats introduced evidence that the riot was pre-planned. The Democrats disproved their own case.Source

Reason for Acquitting: Jurisdiction,  Due Process, Merits

Sen. Roger Marshall (KS):

“What was the motivation of this trial? The motivation was political hatred and was simply a continuation of the four-year impeachment fixation on the part of the House Managers and the Democrat Party.

Let me be clear, both sides of the aisle are guilty of heated rhetoric. But, equally guilty are the House Managers and the Democrats for their hypocrisy, and President Trump’s defense team painted that picture clearly.

While I believe this entire trial was unconstitutional from the start, I hope that the failure to convict will put an end to the Democrat’s obsessionSource

No Statement Available

H. Statements of Explanation of Vote Not Available: 4 senators

Sen. Tom Cotton (AR)
Sen. Josh Hawley (MO)
Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
Sen. Tim Scott (SC)

 

Thanks to Elena Hodges for assistance on this project.

Photo Credit: Congress.gov via Getty Images