We know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe?

We know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe?
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With 44 of the 50 Senate Republicans declaring that impeaching a president who is no longer in office is unconstitutional, the House of Representatives’ resolution to impeach Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6 will almost certainly fall far short of the 67 votes required to convict him.

Nonetheless, Americans should remember that although many Trump loyalists in the Senate refuse to hold the former president accountable for the assault on the Capitol, they do hold him responsible.

Perhaps the tally would be different if the ballot were secret.


Abundant evidence supports the conclusion expressed in the lyrics of a song recorded a hundred years ago by Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra: “Your lips tell me no, no/But there’s yes, yes in your eyes.” Here’s what Republican leaders of the Senate who will likely vote to acquit said — before they listened to the avalanche of evidence presented by the House managers that President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to move ahead with billion UAE weapons sale approved by Trump Fox News hires high-profile defense team in Dominion defamation lawsuit Associate indicted in Gaetz scandal cooperating with DOJ: report MORE encouraged an armed mob to “stop the steal,” did nothing to stop the assault once it turned violent, and told the insurrectionists he “loved them”:

“The last time the Senate convened,” former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his colleagues in mid-January, “we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing its duty. The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government.”

Misinformation and falsehoods about widespread fraud in the presidential election, including comments by President Trump, fueled the riots, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Republican Whip, declared on Jan. 7: “Scripture says, ‘When you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.’ You could see this coming.” Asked at the end of January if he could defend Trump’s behavior, Thune replied, “No, not at all. The way he handled the post-election, both in terms of his public statements and things he tried to do to change the outcome, no.”

“We hit bottom,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates Democrats work to pick up GOP support on anti-Asian hate crimes bill MORE (R-Texas), counselor to the GOP Senate Caucus. “You get that many people together and get them stirred up, you simply can’t control them… that’s one reason why you don’t say, ‘Go up and tell the people in the Capitol what you think about it.’” 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP opens door to earmarks Thune: 'There are Republicans who would vote' for smaller infrastructure package Republicans can't handle the truth about taxes MORE (R-Mo.), Chair of the Republican Policy Committee, called Trump’s behavior leading up to the riot “clearly reckless.” He “touched the hot stove on Wednesday.”


Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstExclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee Trump faces test of power with early endorsements GOP looks to squeeze Biden, Democrats on border MORE (R-Iowa), Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference, joined her colleague Sen. Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Number of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing MORE (R-Iowa), the longest serving Republican in the Senate, in concluding that Trump “bears some responsibility for what happened.”

Although he intended to object to certification of Joe BidenJoe BidenIRS to roll out payments for ,000 child tax credit in July Capitol Police told not to use most aggressive tactics in riot response, report finds Biden to accompany first lady to appointment for 'common medical procedure' MORE’s victory, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) opined, “I think most [Americans] would have a lot of trouble saying there was no connection” between Trump’s actions and the insurrection. “I think he’s going to be held accountable in the way that people sort him out with whatever he intends to do in the future.”

Even Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Graham: 'A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous' MORE (R-S.C.), Trump’s golf buddy and enabler-in-chief, said on the floor of the Senate: “Trump and I, we had a hell of a journey. I hate it being this way. All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough. We’ve got to end it.” A few days before the impeachment trial began, Graham claimed that Trump’s words and deeds “were the problem, not the solution.” Jan. 6 “was a very bad day for America and he’ll get his share of blame in history,” with a “tarnished” legacy.

As if to underscore the validity of the aphorism that historical events often end twice, “the first time as tragedy, and then as farce,” this week Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) implicated House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi says she would have put up a fight against Capitol mob: 'I'm a street fighter' Biden to address Congress on April 28 NY House Democrats demand repeal of SALT cap MORE (D-Calif.) in the Capitol riots. In an appearance on Fox News, Johnson suggested Pelosi might have initiated impeachment proceedings as “another diversionary operation. Is this meant to deflect away from potentially what the speaker knew and when she knew it? I don’t know, but I’m suspicious.”

Johnson’s speculation serves as a reminder that conspiracy theories — and pander bears — remain alive and well in some Republican precincts.

But there may be reason to hope that sometime soon Johnson’s GOP colleagues in the Senate (and maybe even the House) will begin to summon up the courage to act on what they believe, and — better yet — what they know to be true. After all, as Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseBipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Maine GOP rejects motion to censure Collins MORE (R-Neb.) told the Nebraska Republicans who were determined to censure him, “Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude.”

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of "Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century."