WASHINGTON – After seven Republicans voted Saturday to convict former President Donald Trump in his Senate trial, News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney said the real surprises in that group were Sen. Richard Burr from North Carolina and Sen. William Cassidy from Louisiana.
In addition to Burr and Cassidy, voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.
The seven votes were easily the largest number of lawmakers to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty at impeachment proceedings.
By joining all 50 Democrats who voted against Trump, the seven GOP senators created a clear majority against him and provided a bipartisan chorus of condemnation of the former president. Trump was acquitted of inciting an insurrection for riling up a crowd of his supporters before they attacked the U.S. Capitol last month.
Most of the defecting Republicans had clashed with Trump over the years. Burr and Toomey have said they will retire and not seek reelection when their terms expire next year.
While lawmakers voted 57-43 to find Trump guilty, the evenly divided Senate fell well short of the two-thirds majority -- 67 votes -- required to convict an impeached president.
Mullaney, the founding director of Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute, said despite the surprise defections, the final outcome was what had been expected all week.
He pointed out that after the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made comments that echoed his earlier harsh criticism of Trump’s conduct. But McConnell said his vote to acquit in the end was based on the fact that Trump is a former president.
Mullaney said that while the historic impeachment trial is over, Trump’s legal battles will continue, including an ongoing investigation in Georgia and unrelated investigations in New York.
“You may even hear some senators begin to talk about potential censure,” Mullaney said.
Mullaney said that while the Senate did not vote to disqualify Trump from running in future elections, the former president would be unlikely to be a viable candidate in any future national elections.
“In the end, I believe the events of Jan. 6 and Donald Trump’s conduct leading up to that and what he did afterward is going to be, in effect, disqualifying,” Mullaney said.