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Cassidy defends vote to proceed with Trump trial after GOP backlash

Cassidy defends vote to proceed with Trump trial after GOP backlash
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyCalls grow for national paid family leave amid pandemic Senators urge Energy chief to prioritize cybersecurity amid growing threats Vivek Murthy confirmed as surgeon general MORE (R-La.) on Wednesday defended his vote to proceed with former President TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE's impeachment trial — a decision that caught Republicans off guard and has sparked backlash.

Cassidy was one of six GOP senators who voted Tuesday to say Trump's trial is constitutional, and the only one of the six who had previously supported an effort by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Fauci on Tucker Carlson vaccine comments: 'Typical crazy conspiracy theory' MORE (R-Ky.) to declare it unconstitutional.

"The issue was: Is it constitutional? And at the end of the day, clearly it had been established that it is constitutional," Cassidy said Wednesday.

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His vote the previous day appeared to surprise fellow congressional Republicans.

Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonCompanies sidestep self-imposed bans on GOP donations House GOP holdouts muddle Trump vaccine message Cassidy defends vote to proceed with Trump trial after GOP backlash MORE (R-La.) said Tuesday night that he was "surprised" and already hearing from constituents in their home state.

"I have not spoken to him, but I can tell you a lot of people from back home are calling me about it right now," Johnson told reporters.

The Louisiana Republican Party rebuked Cassidy over his vote.

“The Republican Party of Louisiana is profoundly disappointed by Senator Bill Cassidy’s vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial now underway against former President, now private citizen, Donald J. Trump,” the party said in a statement.

Cassidy, however, defended his vote, and predicted that as he's able to explain it, some people will come to agree with his decision.

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"When it comes to defending the Constitution, I don't usually do a poll before I take my vote. But since the vote I took is the conservative constitutional position, I think as people become familiar with that they will agree with me," he said, asked about the criticism from the state party.

Cassidy acknowledged he was getting calls from constituents, who are divided by his vote. If Republicans had been successful in getting a majority of senators to declare the trial unconstitutional, it would have ended Tuesday.

"Many of them are supportive and many of them are asking me why," Cassidy said, adding that after he explains it, "some of those to whom I explain say, 'Oh, I get it now,' and some continue to disagree."

Cassidy stressed that he has not made a final decision on whether to convict Trump. Though several Republicans were frustrated by Trump's rhetoric on Jan. 6, when he urged supporters to march to the Capitol, none have said they will vote to convict him at the end of the trial.

"This does not predict my vote on anything else. It does predict that I will listen to these arguments as I did to the arguments yesterday with an open mind," Cassidy said.