On Friday, however, Cassidy held a document in public view that appeared to indicate he is ready to acquit Trump.
“The events of January 6 are a stain on our country. President Trump and many others certainly contributed to the environment. The former president did engage in excessive and unnecessary rhetoric before and after the election,” the draft statement said in part. “However, the House Managers did not connect the dots to show President Trump knew that the attack on the Capitol was going to be violent and result in the loss of life.”
But Cassidy told reporters he remained undecided and said the draft statement was not indicative of any final decision. “If I flipped the page, you would have had the one going the other way,” he said.
Leaving the Senate on Friday evening, Cassidy said he planned to review his three legal pads’ worth of notes and write out his thoughts before making a final decision.
“I find when you write your thoughts out, you establish clarity,” he said.
A Washington Post photographer captured the image of the notes as Cassidy and aides huddled in the Senate Reception Room, an ornate public space just off the Senate floor where journalists are staged to capture the action surrounding the trial.
Should Cassidy vote against convicting Trump, it would mean only a handful of Republican votes were ever in play for the Democratic impeachment managers. Cassidy was the only one of six Republicans who upheld the constitutionality of the trial to have switched his position after a test vote on impeachment was taken in late January.
Cassidy’s vote Tuesday earned him a rebuke from the Louisiana Republican Party and piqued the interest of political observers who have eyed Cassidy as an emerging bipartisan dealmaker after he won a new six-year term in November.
But the draft statement seen Friday could indicate that Cassidy’s willingness to cross party lines has limits.
“Evidence presented during the trial [was] powerful and showed irresponsible judgment by a lot of people, but did [not] prove the charge that President Trump was directly responsible for the people who broke into our Capitol,” the notes said.
Later Friday, Cassidy signaled he still had serious misgivings about Trump’s conduct.
In a question to the House managers and Trump’s defense team, he noted that Trump tweeted during the Jan. 6 riot that then-Vice President Mike Pence lacked courage, this after Trump apparently had been told in a phone call with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) that Pence had been escorted out of the Senate under threat from the mob.
“Does this show that President Trump was tolerant of the intimidation of Vice President Pence?” Cassidy asked.
Trump lawyer Michael T. van der Veen did not dispute the statement, only that the managers had not established what they asserted except by hearsay: “Unfortunately, we’re not going to know the answer to the facts in this proceeding because the House did nothing to investigate what went on. … I’m sure Mr. Trump very much is concerned and was concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Pence and everybody.”
Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, shot back: “Rather than yelling at us and screaming about how we didn’t have time to get all of the facts about what your client did, bring your client up here and have him testify under oath about why he was sending out tweets denouncing the vice president of the United States while the vice president was being hunted down by a mob that wanted to hang him.”
Cassidy watched intently from his desk in the back of the chamber and later told reporters he was not pleased with the response from van der Veen.
“I didn’t think it was a very good answer,” he said. “The real issue is, what was the president’s intent, right? Only the president could answer that, and the president chose not to testify.”
The Senate is on track to vote to convict or acquit Trump at some point Saturday, and Cassidy said he would not announce his decision in advance.
“I’ll announce it when I make my vote,” he said, adding, “It’s about our country, our Constitution, our future.