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Why 7 Republican senators broke ranks, voted to convict Trump

Republican Sens. Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey voted in favor of convicting Trump.
Mitt Romney
Posted at 1:38 PM, Feb 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-14 00:04:05-05

Saturday was considered the most bipartisan impeachment trial of a president in history with seven GOP senators voting to convict President Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

While the effort to convict Trump came well short, Saturday’s vote indicated that Democrats had some support from across the aisle. In all, 57 senators voted to convict Trump, 10 shy of the number needed to convict.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey voted in favor of convicting Trump.

While the guilty votes from Romney, Murkowski and Collins were not surprising, the most shocking vote likely came from Burr of North Carolina. Burr has generally been considered a support of Trump. According to 538, Burr back Trump’s policy nearly 90% of the time in the Senate.

Burr released a statement explaining his vote.

“As I said on January 6th, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events. The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government,” Burr said.

Another formerly staunch supporter of Trump, Cassidy released a brief video statement on Twitter explaining his vote. Like Burr, Cassidy supported Trump roughly 90% of the time in the US Senate.

“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” Cassidy said.

For Romney, this was his second time voting to convict Trump. Before Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2016, Romney was the GOP’s standard-bearer in 2012. Romney was the lone Republican who voted to convict Trump last year for his phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky. Democrats alleged that Trump tried to tie aid to Ukraine in exchange for politically damaging information about Joe Biden.

“After careful consideration of the respective counsels’ arguments, I have concluded that President Trump is guilty of the charge made by the House of Representatives,” Romney said. “President Trump attempted to corrupt the election by pressuring the Secretary of State of Georgia to falsify the election results in his state. President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes.

“He did this despite the obvious and well known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction.”

Collins agreed that Trump was responsible for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Instead of preventing a dangerous situation, President Trump created one. And rather than defend the Constitutional transfer of power, he incited an insurrection with the purpose of preventing that transfer of power from occurring," Collins said.

One Republican whose vote was unknown until Saturday morning was Leader Mitch McConnell. He was critical of Trump's actions, but ultimately thought that the Senate lacked jurisdiction for convicting a former president.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen," McConnell said. "Unless the statute of limitations is run, still liable for everything he did, while he was in office, didn't get away with anything, yet. Yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."

But McConnell added, "We have no power to convict and disqualify a former office holder who is now an ordinary citizen."