The day after Democratic House managers made their closing arguments for why former President Donald Trump should be convicted in his Senate impeachment trial, President Joe Biden expressed his desire to see how senators — primarily, those on the other side of the political aisle — would vote.
“I’m just anxious to see what my Republican friends do, if they stand up,” Biden said on Friday morning.
The president has been largely quiet about his predecessor’s impeachment trial. His comments on Friday seem to provide his most direct statement yet, indicating that he’s hoping for enough GOP senators to vote to convict Trump.
Biden could be looking to see which Republicans vote to convict the former president for reasons beyond impeachment. For example, the vote could indicate to him which senators would be open to crossing the political divide on future legislative issues.
Several signs from this week’s proceedings, including a number of actions from Republicans the day prior to Biden’s statement, seem to indicate most Republicans will not cross that divide, and will vote to acquit Trump.
As many as 15 Republican senators were missing from the impeachment trial itself on Thursday, Forbes reported. That same evening, three Republicans were seen entering the room where Trump’s defense lawyers were going over plans, in what appeared to be an attempt to help them with their closing arguments strategy.
Although every senator in the impeachment trial takes an oath beforehand to decide on judgment with “impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” of the United States, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) met directly with Trump’s lawyers in the Capitol on Thursday night. Trump lawyer David Schoen described the three as “very friendly guys.”
Their visit, he added, happened in order to ensure Trump’s lawyers were “familiar with procedure” for their closing arguments — suggesting the senators were trying to help Trump’s lawyers avoid a dismal final performance like what had occurred on the opening day of the trial.
Schoen didn’t see anything wrong with that. “I think that’s the practice of impeachment,” he said.
It is not uncommon for senators to express their views or their plans for how they might vote in an impeachment trial. However, meeting directly with defense lawyers for those who have been impeached could be viewed as violating the oath of impartiality these three lawmakers made.
Given these actions and more, there doesn’t seem to be a high likelihood that Trump will be convicted by the Senate — conviction requires two-thirds of all senators to vote in favor of doing so. Even if all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus vote in favor of conviction, it would take an additional 17 Republican senators to join them in order for Trump to be found guilty.
A vote at the start of the trial seemed to demonstrate that wasn’t going to happen. On the question of the constitutionality of Trump being impeached, only six Republicans joined with Democrats to say that a former president could be tried in such a proceeding in the Senate, even though most legal experts agree that a former official can be impeached.
Even though the impeachment trial seems destined to result in Trump’s acquittal, many have given accolades to the House impeachment managers for how they presented evidence against the former president.
“I’ve closely studied every impeachment trial in our history. No impeachment has ever been as ably prosecuted in the Senate,” Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon. “In no prior impeachment has a conviction been as overwhelmingly justified.”