Spotlight on Republicans as Trump impeachment trial nears end

The US Senate was expected to issue a verdict in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial over the weekend, after Trump lawyers concluded their arguments.

The Senate was slated to reconvene on Saturday morning. It is set to hold a debate over whether witness testimony should be allowed, followed by closing arguments.

The ball is now in the court of the Republicans as a minimum of 17 GOP senators would have to join all the Democrats to reach the two-thirds majority required to find Trump guilty of “incitement of insurrection.”

While the Republican vote seems like an unlikely scenario, Democrats hope they can win over enough Republican senators to convict Trump for his role in January’s Capitol riots.

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Susan Collins of Maine are some of the names the Democrats could seek to persuade.

These four are frequent critics of Trump and have said in the past that he incited the insurrection. They have also joined with Democrats twice to vote against the Republican efforts to dismiss the impeachment trial.

Approaching impeachment ‘objectively’

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy could also turn the tables. Cassidy voted in favor of the GOP effort to dismiss the trial two weeks ago. However, he switched his vote this week, saying Trump’s lawyers had done a “terrible” job making the case that the trial was unconstitutional.

Cassidy was seen taking considerable notes throughout Friday’s trial. He said that the impeachment managers had raised some “intriguing questions” and hoped that Trump’s defense counsels would answer them thoroughly.

He added that he was “trying to approach it [the impeachment] objectively.”

Trump team wraps up quickly

Trump’s lawyers took only three hours to conclude their Friday presentation, where they called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance.”

“The Senate should promptly and decisively vote to reject it,” defense lawyer Michael van der Veen said.

They argued that Trump’s rally speech on January 6, where he told supporters to “fight,” was rhetorical.

The former president’s lawyers showed multiple video clips where prominent Democrats, including President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, could be seen using the word “fight” in their past speeches.

“Please, stop the hypocrisy,” Trump’s lawyer David Schoen said.

Trump’s defense team also said that the trial was an attempt to remove the former president from the political arena.

“Let us be clear: this trial is about far more than President Trump,” defense lawyer Bruce Castor said.

“It is about canceling 75 million Trump voters, and criminalizing political viewpoints. That is what this trial is really about.”

If Trump is convicted, the Senate could take a second vote to ban him from a future re-election bid.

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