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Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP

President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE’s relationship with Senate Republicans is facing its biggest test at its lowest point.

Many Republicans blame Trump for their loss of the Senate majority, and are furious that he put their lives in danger after an angry mob filled with people who believed his conspiracy theories about the election stormed the Capitol last week.

Now those Republicans have a chance to vote to convict Trump in an impeachment trial — if they choose to do it. They could also vote to permanently ban him from holding public office. 

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“It had been a very unhealthy marriage for a long time … and now you know a lot of Republicans are quite happy to be divorced,” said Doug Heye, a veteran GOP strategist and former Hill leadership aide. “There will still be political calculations that they make … but this is no longer a fractured relationship, it’s divorce.” 

Trump’s brash style has repeatedly exasperated Senate Republicans, even as they’ve been careful not to cross him given his grip on the base and worked with him to appoint conservative judges, cut taxes and roll back Obama-era regulations. 

But those ties are fraying like never before after a steady stream of post-November clashes.

It’s a big change from last year’s impeachment trial, when Trump’s acquittal was assured by a friendly Senate GOP. 

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) is privately telling confidants that he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that a conviction could help the party turn the page on Trump .

McConnell, in a letter to the GOP caucus, didn’t say how he would vote, stating he would listen to the arguments. Other GOP senators are following his lead. 

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“The attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on democracy itself, and the President bears some responsibility for what occurred. ... If the Senate proceeds with an impeachment trial, I will do my duty as a juror and listen to the cases presented by both sides,” said Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure MORE (R-Ohio). 

Some Republicans argue it is past time for their party to move on after four years where it’s largely been defined by Trump, who has had no qualms about throwing loyal allies under the bus. 

“I think our identity for the past several years now has been built around an individual. We’ve got to get back to where it's built around a set of ideas and principles and policies,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE (R-S.D.) told reporters after Wednesday’s attack. 

Thune, who Trump recently threatened would lose in a GOP primary, didn’t criticize the president by name, but cited the chaos created by vetoing the defense bill, threatening a year-end shutdown and boxing in the party’s ability to acknowledge that President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE won as reasons they lost Georgia. 

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden's program for migrant children doesn't go far enough The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll MORE (R-Iowa), who like Thune is up for reelection in 2022, told reporters in Iowa that there was “very little opportunity” for Trump to lead the party, regardless of impeachment. 

But speaking out against Trump, much less voting to convict him and potentially block him from holding future office, could cost Republicans their seats in the Senate if it motivates Trump-friendly primary challenges. 

Republicans are defending 20 seats in 2022, meaning many Republicans will have one eye on the midterms as they consider conviction.

“Any move they make and especially on something this significant can bring with it a real primary challenge,” Heye said. 

An Axios-Ipsos poll underscores the schism awaiting Republicans: Asked to pick the best identifier, 56 percent of Republican respondents labeled themselves as “traditional Republicans” while 36 percent considered themselves to be Trump supporters. 

Between the two groups, 91 percent of Trump supporters support him contesting election results compared to 46 percent of traditional Republicans. And 92 percent of Trump supporters want him to be the party’s 2024 nominee compared to 41 percent of traditional Republicans. 

For now most Republicans are staying silent as they try to navigate a politically fluid situation and a constant stream of new developments.

There’s also the historical realty: GOP lawmakers are acutely aware that the sacking of the U.S. Capitol and Trump’s response will overshadow any other aspect of his legacy. And as more information about the attack comes out, they acknowledge, it could get worse. 

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“I truly fear there may be more facts that come to light in the future that will put me on the wrong side of this debate,” said Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulSullivan says US preparing more Russia sanctions over Navalny House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers GOP lawmakers urge Biden to add sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning MORE (R-Texas) who, like most House Republicans, voted against impeachment. 

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office GOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Trump dismisses climate change, calls on Biden to fire joint chiefs MORE (R-N.D.), during an interview with CNBC, said it “seems unlikely” there would be 67 votes in the Senate to convict Trump. If every Democrat votes to convict they will need 17 GOP senators. 

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonJoint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on race theory, 'white rage' Senate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry Jon Stewart shows late-night conformity cabal how political comedy is done MORE (R-Ark.), a 2024 contender who opposed overturning the election results, was one of the first GOP senators to make clear he would not vote to convict, though he did nothing to defend Trump.

Cotton said he didn’t think the Senate had the authority under the Constitution to hold an impeachment trial after a president has left office.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure MORE (R-S.C.) is calling his colleagues privately to urge them to oppose convicting Trump and said in a public statement that supporting the effort would do “great damage ... to the party.” 

But it seems guaranteed that Democrats will pick up more GOP support than in 2020, when Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed MORE (Utah) was the only Republican to support one of the articles of impeachment. 

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Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Pence: Trump and I may never 'see eye to eye' on events of Jan. 6 White House: Biden will not appoint presidential Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Neb.) has said he is open to considering any articles passed by the House. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall MORE (R-Maine) is staying mum on the trial but said in an op-ed that Trump “incited” rioters. 

Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall Schumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE (R-Alaska) have called on Trump to resign. 

Murkowski went a step further saying in a statement that she believes the House acted “appropriately” by impeaching Trump, while declining to say how she would ultimately vote in a trial. 

“On the day of the riots, President Trump’s words incited violence, which led to the injury and deaths of Americans – including a Capitol Police officer – the desecration of the Capitol, and briefly interfered with the government’s ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power,” Murkowski said. “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequences.”