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 PelosiGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Trump against boycotting Beijing Olympics in 2022 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 PaulSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Rand Paul does not support a national minimum wage increase — and it's important to understand why Fauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' MORE (R-Ky.) was spotted tracing the watermark of the Capitol on a legal pad while Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Kerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain 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 BlackburnGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Fauci on Blackburn video: 'No idea what she is talking about' Pentagon report clears use of drones made by top Chinese manufacturer MORE (R-Tenn.) didn’t seem to pay much attention to Rep. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Overnight Health Care: House Democrats pressure Biden to expand Medicare | Intel community: Competing COVID-19 origin theories not 'more likely than the other' | WHO: Africa in 'urgent need' of 20 million second vaccine doses 70 percent of House Democrats pressure Biden to expand Medicare in American Families Plan MORE’s (D-Colo.) presentation. 

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? 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 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.) had four stacks of note cards on his desk. Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans White House reiterates opposition to raising gas tax amid infrastructure debate MORE (R-Maine) and Bill CassidyBill CassidyCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 MORE (R-La.) took careful notes while Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Trump endorses Murkowski challenger 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 HawleyPence heckled with calls of 'traitor' at conservative conference Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior 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 Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Jan. 6 commission vote delayed; infrastructure debate lingers into June Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run 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.”