The final chapter of Donald Trump’s presidency was written Saturday, leaving no question about how it will be perceived by history. Seven senators from his own party voted to convict him on an article of impeachment alleging that he incited an insurrection against the government, a condemnation unlike any other in American history. Trump’s second impeachment came much closer to conviction than either his first or that of Bill Clinton in 1999, precisely because so many Republicans supported the move.
The ultimate acquittal was expected. As we reported this week, only three members of the Republican caucus represent states that didn’t vote for Trump in last year’s election. Only about a third of the caucus faces reelection in 2022, which might have been expected to motivate them to appeal to a Republican base that is still strongly loyal to the former president.
Yet five Republicans from states that backed Trump supported conviction. The seven Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and the Senate’s two independents were Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Of those seven, only two — Burr and Toomey — have announced plans to retire, and only Murkowski faces reelection in 2022.
The breadth of the condemnation from his party exceeded even the rebuke he received from the House last month. In the past three impeachment efforts, several members of either party have bucked the rest of their caucus.
But in January, 10 members of the House Republican caucus joined in supporting the impeachment measure, more members of the president’s own party than in any of the three previous impeachment efforts. No Democrats opposed it.
The first impeachment trial, that of Democrat Andrew Johnson in 1868, came much closer to conviction largely because the Senate was so heavily weighted with Republicans. No members of Johnson’s party supported conviction; had they, he would have been ousted. (A two-thirds majority is needed for that to occur.)
The same pattern occurred for Clinton in 1999. No Democrats supported his conviction either, on either of the two articles of impeachment passed in the Republican House.
The first occasion on which a member of the president’s party supported conviction came last year, when Romney voted to convict Trump on a charge that he’d abused the power of his presidency by pressuring Ukraine to aid his reelection bid.
That was a rebuke of a historic nature — but it pales compared with what occurred Saturday.
It’s worth noting that the Senate’s vote on the most recent article of impeachment was far more bipartisan than was the vote in the House. Ten House Republicans supporting impeachment was functionally equivalent to just under 5 percent of the caucus — equivalent to two Republican senators. Seven Republican senators voting to convict Trump is the equivalent of 29 House Republicans joining the push to hold Trump accountable.
The outcome overall was unsurprising: No one seriously expected Trump to be convicted by the Senate. But few, it’s safe to assume, expected him to come only 10 votes shy of that mark.
Trump lost his reelection bid to his humiliation, prompting him to repeatedly deny reality and, by extension, to prompt hundreds of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol out of the deluded belief that he had won. Now that humiliation is compounded: Not only did he lose and not only did he ridiculously claim he hadn’t, but he is now a twice-impeached president whose actions met with unexpected condemnation from his own party — even in a moment when party polarization runs deep enough to ensure that he would be acquitted.