GOP Sen. Pat Toomey says conviction of Trump is 'very unlikely' as Senate trial is set to start

  • Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said it is "very unlikely" that the Senate will convict former President Donald Trump during his upcoming impeachment trial.
  • After the Senate trial, which starts Tuesday, senators will decide whether Trump incited an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
  • Toomey was one of only five Republicans who voted that holding a trial for a former president is constitutional.

One of Donald Trump's harshest Republican critics in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol doubts the former president's upcoming impeachment trial will end with a conviction.

"I think it's very unlikely," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told CNN on Sunday morning.

Trump's unprecedented second Senate impeachment trial will start on Tuesday. Lawmakers will decide whether to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol, after a mob of the ex-president's supporters stormed the building and disrupted the formal count of President Joe Biden's electoral win. The attack left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

In a Senate split 50-50 by party, it would take 17 Republican senators voting with every Democrat in order to convict Trump. If the chamber does so, it can also vote to bar Trump from holding office again or enjoying certain perks reserved for former presidents.

While many GOP senators have said they enter the trial with an open mind, acquittal appears likely. Only five Republicans including Toomey voted last month to say the trial of a former president is constitutional.

Toomey, who called on Trump to resign before he left office last month, said the trial is "clearly constitutional" in part because the House charged Trump while he was president. The Republican said he would "objectively evaluate the very specific article of impeachment."

Others in the GOP, though, want nothing to do with the trial. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., argued in a CBS interview that the impeachment article is unconstitutional.

"I think I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to end the impeachment trial," he said Sunday.

It is still unclear how the Senate will structure the trial and how long it will last. Democrats hope to get through it in order to confirm Biden's executive branch nominees and pass a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Trump's first impeachment trial before the Senate last year lasted about three weeks.

The House Democratic impeachment managers, who will make the chamber's case before the Senate, sought the former president's testimony under oath. His lawyers denied the request.

Trump's attorneys have argued he did not intend to incite a riot or disrupt the electoral vote count. They have also contended the Senate cannot convict a former president.

The nine House managers have argued Trump provoked violence against the U.S. government. They say he stirred up the mob both in his comments at a rally on the day of the attack, and by spreading conspiracy theories for more than two months, convincing supporters that widespread fraud cost him the election.

The House voted to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection by a 232-197 margin last month. Ten Republicans joined with every Democrat in charging him.

The conspiracy theories and subsequent attack have left Republicans grappling with how to treat Trump in the future. He remains the most popular figure in the GOP, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with him about supporting the party in the midterm elections next year.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican whose vote to impeach Trump prompted a failed effort to oust her from the No. 3 House GOP leadership spot, has called for the party to distance itself from the former president.

"That is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party moving forward," she said.

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