The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion There are only seven honorable Republican senators

House managers argue former president Trump incited an insurrection in a dramatic and swift Senate impeachment trial. (Video: The Washington Post)

In a masterly job of lawyering, public education and civic performance, House impeachment managers got every available Republican vote to convict former president Donald Trump on Saturday. Alas, there were only seven available — the other 43 Republicans apparently made up their minds before the trial had even started. The Republican honor roll: Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.). It was the most bipartisan impeachment verdict in American history.

Two retiring senators (Burr and Toomey) showed some spine, but another who is not seeking reelection, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — who fancies himself a dealmaker — continues to underwhelm. Even insulated from facing Trump supporters at the polls, he could not bring himself to render the obvious verdict. My colleague Max Boot’s observation is utterly vindicated: “Maybe the junior senator from Ohio and other mainstream Republicans couldn’t have stopped the Trumpist takeover of their party if they had tried. But they didn’t try. The cowardice of Rob Portman has done more damage to the Republican Party — and the republic — than the craziness of Marjorie Taylor Greene.”

Earlier in the day, House managers were compelled by Senate Democrats to accept the stipulated testimony of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) rather than her live testimony. Many Americans, including the House managers, learned plenty in the development of the case against the disgraced former president. There was far more evidence of guilt than we had imagined. The White House intervened to allow the mob to gather on the Ellipse. Scores of his MAGA followers believed they were acting on Trump’s command. We got even more evidence of his guilt and of the total irresponsibility of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) when we heard Herrera Beutler’s testimony read into the record: Trump knew the Capitol and his vice president were imperiled. He seemed perfectly pleased and indeed scolded McCarthy for not being as committed to him as the violent insurrectionists were.

There was likely not a single senator who would have changed his or her vote had Herrera Beutler appeared live. The number of Americans who were not persuaded by the mound of evidence to convict but would have been “educated” by her live testimony, instead of written, is likely zero. House managers made their case to the country and for history.

In doing so, the managers convicted 43 Republicans of disloyalty to the Constitution and utter cowardice. They were provided no factual or constitutional basis to acquit, and yet they did just that. Nothing could be more hypocritical or symptomatic of spinelessness than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Having delayed the trial beyond Joe Biden’s inauguration, McConnell voted to acquit on Saturday, arguing that a president couldn’t be tried once out of office. And then he proclaimed, “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office. … He didn’t get away with anything yet.” If that is not an admission of McConnell’s own failure to uphold his oath, then nothing is. Given that seven Republicans found the courage to do what he could not is an indictment of his moral feebleness thorough partisanship.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared at the House managers’ post-verdict news conference and tore into McConnell. She excoriated him for the grounds on which he claimed to acquit, since he was the one who delayed the trial. She mocked McConnell: "So for him to get up there and make this indictment against the President and then say but ‘I can’t, I can’t vote for it because it’s after the fact.’ The fact that he established! The fact that he established that it could not be delivered before the inauguration.” Calling Republicans “cowardly,” she pointed out that McConnell affirmed that the managers had proved the case. She rightly concluded McConnell and Republicans were bent on acquitting the former president no matter the facts.

The House managers conducted themselves with grace and honor. We saw the intellectual and emotional strength of Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), who had just lost his son (named after Thomas Paine, whom Raskin quoted frequently). Newcomers Rep. Stacey Plaskett, a non-voting Democratic delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) proved themselves to be rising stars. Neguse’s closing argument was pitch-perfect:

We are reminded that the country has one functioning, pro-democracy party and another under the sway of the MAGA mob and the instigator of a violent insurrection. Never has the gap between the parties been so great, nor the need for one side to prevail so essential to the survival of the republic.

Read more:

Ruth Marcus: Senate Republicans, suffering from Mar-a-Lago syndrome, voted their fears

Dana Milbank: Trump left them to die. 43 Senate Republicans still licked his boots.

The Post’s View: 57 senators got it right. But the Senate has more work to do.

Max Boot: The Senate got smoking-gun evidence of Trump’s guilt. 43 Republicans didn’t care.

Colbert I. King: In rallying to Trump, Senate Republicans sacrificed Pence

Jennifer Rubin: Blockbuster revelation: Just how low is Kevin McCarthy?