GOP senators criticized for appearing to pay half-hearted attention to trial

Several Republican senators drew criticism Wednesday for appearing to pay only half-hearted attention to House impeachment managers' arguments as the trial stretched into its fourth hour.

Several whispered among themselves, while others chewed gum, doodled or struggled to stay awake.

The Republicans started paying closer attention when House impeachment managers began airing footage from inside the Capitol after it was breached in Jan. 6, including some that showed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE's (D-Calif.) staff barricading themselves in an office minutes before a group of rioters walked down a hallway.


But before that, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) was spotted tracing the watermark of the Capitol on a legal pad while Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbying world Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Trump ready to make McConnell's life miserable MORE (R-S.C.) appeared to read a magazine article and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) gazed at a 2021 calendar. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was studying what appeared to be a map of Southeast Asia.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) was described by one reporter in the chamber as appearing to struggle to stay awake while Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Biden health nominee faces first Senate test MORE (R-Tenn.) didn’t seem to pay much attention to Rep. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseHouse passes major public lands package OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid | Biden honeymoon with green groups faces tests | Electric vehicles are poised to aid Biden in climate fight Democratic impeachment manager: Trump trial could have lasted years if witnesses were called MORE’s (D-Colo.) presentation. 

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE (R-N.C.) popped snacks into his mouth under his mask and at one point walked into the cloakroom, emerging moments later with a glass of milk. Milk and water are the only beverages allowed on the floor under Senate rules.

Other Republicans were paying diligent attention. Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Neb.) had four stacks of note cards on his desk. Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Maine) and Bill CassidyBill CassidyRepublicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Koch-backed group launches ads urging lawmakers to reject COVID-19 relief bill MORE (R-La.) took careful notes while Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Alaska) steadily watched the speakers at the podium.

A number of Republican senators arrived a few minutes late to the start of the second day of the trial. One reporter counted 33 seats empty when the proceeding started at noon. The chamber didn’t fill up until about 12:20 p.m.


Paul wasn’t seen on the floor for most of the first hour and a half of arguments though he was spotted in the cloakroom raising up his arms and appearing to speak loudly. 

NBC reporter Garrett Haake, who was in the chamber, said the impeachment managers struggled with “the intractable nature of trying to get some of the folks in the room to actually engage with the material and be present and take this seriously.”

As the arguments stretched on, more empty desks were spotted on the Republican side of the aisle.

“I notice some of their seats empty. It’s hard for me to know what they’re paying attention to,” remarked Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “I see on our side just about everyone” in their seats.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyOn The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst Democrats scramble to rescue minimum wage hike Hawley gets boisterous ovation at CPAC for Electoral College objection   MORE (R-Mo.), who objected to Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, watched the day two arguments from the visitor’s gallery above the Senate floor with his feet propped up on the seat in front of him, reading papers in unmarked manila folders.


That body language drew a rebuke from former Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Memo: Punish Trump or risk a repeat, warn Democrats GOP senators criticized for appearing to pay half-hearted attention to trial Hawley watches trial from visitor's gallery MORE (D-Mo.), whom Hawley defeated in the 2018 midterm election.

"He's proud to pull himself apart from everyone else and be the only guy. This is all political for him. It's all political theater. That's why he's up there with his feet over the chair," she said on MSNBC. 

"He's probably working on his book manuscript,” she added. “It's very disrespectful.”

Hawley later explained to reporters he was reading through the trial briefs and his own notes. 

“For me, it’s a little less claustrophobic,” he said. “So we’re not all jammed together” on the floor.

“Not that I don’t like my colleagues,” he explained, adding that he sat apart so “we’re not elbow-to-elbow.”