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Could McConnell's signal to Republicans open floodgates against Trump?

David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has said she wants Trump “out,” Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey indicated Trump’s offenses are worthy of impeachment and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse told CBS News he would consider voting to convict.

Even if all four of them got to “yes” and are joined by McConnell, a dozen more Republicans would be needed to reach the two-thirds threshold. Some constitutional scholars argue that a simple majority of senators could vote to bar Trump from running again -- but that decision would almost definitely spark a court challenge.

For his part, McConnell is clearly fed up with Trump. A source familiar with McConnell’s thinking said he largely blames Trump for the GOP’s twin Senate losses in Georgia. As the Kentuckian begins to eye climbing back into the majority in the 2022 midterms, an untethered and vengeful Trump would only complicate his calculations.

Still, even out of power Trump stands poised to remain a potent force with his tens of millions of followers. Any Republican senator who bucks Trump risks his wrath, if not an eventual primary challenge from a MAGA loyalist.

“It’s a calculated risk but when it comes to being on the right side of history, I think they’re going to make that choice,” said Reed.


Of course, McConnell’s signal to his GOP colleagues does not guarantee that a significant number will move against the president. At least a half dozen Republican senators harbor some level of presidential aspirations and may decide that a vote to convict Trump would immediately extinguish their chances.

At this point, with the timing of a trial up in the air, they may not even know what side they’ll end up on yet.

“The Republican caucus looks like an army that is in full panic running in different directions,” said Kessler, “so it’s hard to predict what they’ll do in the next 24 hours.”

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