A group of U.S. House members that includes Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro transmitted its article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the U.S. Senate on Monday evening, setting the stage for a trial over Trump’s role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.
But there hasn’t been much indication that the two Texas Republicans in the Senate will be willing to convict. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz called the impeachment trial “vindictive and punitive” when he spoke to reporters in Capitol Hill last week, adding that “congressional Democrats seem obsessed with their hatred for Donald Trump.”
And U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has expressed skepticism at the idea of a trial. In recent days, he has argued on Twitter that the trial would entice Republicans to impeach former Democratic presidents in the future, and he shared a Wall Street Journal opinion article authored by Alan Dershowitz that argues Trump can’t be tried because he’s now a private citizen.
Like Cruz, Cornyn also called the impeachment trial “vindictive” in a recent interview with KHOU. But he did recently echo Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Kentucky, call for a “vote of conscience” in the case.
"I've heard people talk about a vote of conscience, and I think that's a good way to put it," Cornyn said last Tuesday, according to CNN.
Trump was impeached for a historic second time Jan. 13, one week after his supporters stormed the Capitol and interrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. Prior to that, Trump repeatedly made false claims of election fraud and claimed the election had been stolen from him, despite no credible evidence of fraud on a level that would have affected the result. Every House Democrat along with 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump — the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history, Politifact confirmed.
A two-thirds Senate vote would be needed to convict Trump. Congressional Democrats have also called to bar Trump from holding future office, which would be a separate vote that would only require a simple majority. But, under the Constitution, that vote can only take place if Trump is convicted. The Senate is split 50-50 among Republicans and senators who caucus with the Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the deciding vote in the event of a tie. But proponents of barring Trump from holding future office must overcome the hurdle of convicting him with two-thirds of the Senate.
Neither Cruz nor Cornyn have explicitly stated how they’ll vote in the impeachment trial. Cornyn told KHOU that he will “reserve judgment” until after the impeachment managers present the case.
GOP Sens. Joni Ernst, Tim Scott and Tom Cotton have spoken out against even holding a trial in the first place — either by questioning the constitutionality of trying Trump as a former president or by claiming the trial would further divide the country.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, shot down their claims of unconstitutionality during a Senate floor speech Friday, while also reaffirming that there will be an impeachment trial despite Republican cries against it.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president or any official could commit a heinous crime against our country, then be permitted to resign in order to avoid accountability and a vote to disbar them from future office,” Schumer said.
So far, there have only been a handful of GOP senators who have publicly denounced Trump in some form for his role in inciting the U.S. Capitol riot, including Sens. Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. However, many GOP senators have pledged to carefully consider all of the evidence that will be presented during the impeachment trial.
In response to Cornyn’s tweet that trying Trump would only prompt congressional Republicans to do the same to former Democratic presidents, Castro, D-San Antonio, one of the nine impeachment managers, told NPR that “any president, Republican or Democrat who incites an insurrection to overturn an election should be impeached and should be convicted.”
“I also believe that as the days go on, more and more evidence comes out about the president's involvement in the incitement of this insurrection, the incitement of this riot and also his dereliction of duty once it was going on,” Castro said. “So I'm confident that we've got a strong case and that we can convince those senators.”
The trial comes as Cruz is still under fire for promoting Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud. Lawmakers were debating his objection to certifying the results when the Jan. 6 riot began. Seven Democrats filed a complaint with the Senate Committee on Ethics last week arguing that Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, lent legitimacy to Trump’s conspiracy theories.
Cornyn voted against Cruz’s objection. But he defended the two Republicans in a Fox News interview Monday.
“It's not uncommon — it's actually frequent — where Senators have different points of view,” he said. “And I might think the point of view of my opponent is wrong and I'm right, but that doesn't mean it's unethical or improper for them to make the argument, as long as we abide the judgment of the body of the Senate and follow the law as was done when it came to the certification of these votes.”