Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.), the only Republican senator to switch his vote Tuesday to support moving forward with Trump’s impeachment trial, criticized the meandering opening statements by Trump’s attorney as confusing and nonsensical.
“It was disorganized, random,” Cassidy told reporters after Tuesday’s proceedings. "[Trump’s lawyers] talked about many things but didn’t talk about the issue at hand. … The issue at hand, is it constitutional to impeach a president who’s left office? And the House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the president’s team did not.”
Cassidy was one of six Republican senators to vote with Democrats to say that it was constitutional to impeach a former president even after he has left office. The other five Republican senators had done so in a similar vote last month.
Cassidy said at one point that, as one of Trump’s lawyers was speaking, he leaned over, confused, to ask Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) if he was missing something.
“If I’m there as an impartial juror, respecting my oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the U.S., and one side makes the argument, and the other side does everything but make the argument, then to live with myself, I make that vote. I’ve always said I’m approaching this as an impartial juror,” he said.
Over the weekend, Cassidy hinted that his vote Tuesday might not be the same as it was in late January.
“I will listen to both sides and be objective,” Cassidy told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday on NBC. “So Chuck, I’m sorry, but everybody wants you to commit to how you’re going to vote before you actually have the hearing. And so I’ve been trying to studiously avoid doing so.”
Cassidy added that January’s vote was “a vote in a moment of time … based upon what senators knew at that point.”
“But we will now have, hopefully, presentations from both sides, and we will consider the evidence as impartial jurors,” Cassidy told Todd.
Cassidy’s vote drew criticism from the Louisiana Republican Party, which said it was “profoundly disappointed." Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a Trump ally who said he was part of the Trump team’s “war room,” 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 told reporters.