The dramatic shift in tone from Senate Republicans between two impeachment trials of former President Trump, just a year apart, reveals a party that has grown weary of defending its leader but lacks the fortitude to sever ties, with GOP lawmakers openly grappling this weekend with the difficult question of how to move forward after such a divisive trial.
In the wake of Trump’s acquittal Saturday, Republicans are divided on the power Trump will — and should — command in the Republican Party, including in the 2024 presidential election.Seven Republicans voted for conviction, a number so large that the vote will go down as the most bipartisan presidential guilty tally in American history; even so, the GOP votes represented just 14% of the Senate conference.
“Time is going to take care of that some way or another,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who voted not guilty and is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, said shortly after the verdict. “But remember, in order to be a leader you got to have followers. So we’re gonna find out, whoever leads.”
When Trump faced his first impeachment trial in 2020, Senate Republicans rushed to defend him, deriding the House effort as a politically motivated witch hunt. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged to work with Trump’s legal team to avoid conviction and referred to himself as “not an impartial juror.”
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