WASHINGTON — Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana was one of six GOP senators who voted Tuesday to uphold the Senate’s authority to hold an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, taking Republicans aback by reversing the position he took in a vote last month.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday evening, Cassidy also contrasted the “focused, organized” House Democrats arguing for conviction against Trump’s legal team, who he said did a “terrible” job.
The Democratic impeachment managers “relied both upon precedent, the Constitution, and legal scholars. They made a compelling argument,” Cassidy said, according to a pool feed. “President Trump’s team was disorganized. They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments.”
Cassidy continued: “Now if I’m an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job, and the other side is doing a terrible job on the issue at hand, as an impartial juror, I’m going to vote for the side that did the good job.”
Aside from Cassidy, five other Republican senators joined Democrats in voting Tuesday to support the constitutionality of holding the impeachment trial after Trump left office: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
All five of those GOP lawmakers also supported the trial’s constitutionality in a procedural vote last month. Cassidy did not.
No other president has been tried on impeachment charges after leaving office, and no other president has faced impeachment twice. Trump is charged with inciting the violent mob that lay siege to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, disrupting the tallying of presidential Electoral College votes and resulting in five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer.
Cassidy wasn’t the only Republican senator unimpressed by the president’s legal team’s performance, in which attorney Bruce Castor gave a meandering defense that name-dropped several senators during his unfocused arguments.
Toomey said Tuesday evening that Trump’s attorney’s “had a weaker case to start with, and I don’t think it was very persuasive.”
Even Trump supporters were dismayed. “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was, it was not one of the finest I’ve seen,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who added that Castor “just rambled on and on and on.”
Asked by a reporter for a response to the GOP criticism, Castor said, “We had a good day.”
Cassidy had said heading into the trial that he would listen to both sides with an open mind. Asked how Tuesday’s initial arguments may affect the odds of conviction, he replied: “I don’t know. We haven’t heard that yet. I’m an impartial juror.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican who represents Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District in the northwestern part of the state, and a Trump loyalist, said he was “surprised” by Cassidy’s vote.
“I have not spoken to him, but I can tell you a lot of people from back home are calling me about it right now,” Johnson said Tuesday, according to a pool feed.