All 100 US senators have been sworn in as jurors for the upcoming impeachment trial of Donald Trump, as more than two dozen remain undecided about whether they will vote to convict the former president for inciting a bloody insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January.
By the time President Pro Tempore of the chamber Patrick Leahy, the longtime Democrat from Vermont, swore them in around 2:30pm on Tuesday , 35 senators — all Democrats or Independents who caucus with them — had publicly committed to convicting Mr Trump, according to a New York Times chart on where each lawmaker stands.
Twenty-seven Republicans indicated to the Times they will vote to acquit the former president, citing far-flung conservative legal arguments about the constitutionality of convicting a former president and the need to “heal” national divisions.
At Tuesday’s swearing-in, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul put forth a motion to declare the impeachment trial unconstitutional since Mr Trump is no longer in office.
That motion failed.
Twenty-eight senators — 16 Republicans, 11 Democrats, and Democratic-caucusing Independent Angus King of Maine — did not commit to voting one way or the other. Ten did not provide responses to the Times.
At least 17 Republicans must vote with all 50 Democrats (including Mr King and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont) to convict Mr Trump and bar him from ever holding federally elected office again in the future.
More and more Republicans in recent days have appeared to inch away from ultimately voting to convict Mr Trump, despite acknowledging that he bears much of the blame for inciting a riot at the Capitol that killed five people and sent lawmakers fleeing for cover while they were supposed to be certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Crucially, one of the senators who is still weighing whether to convict Mr Trump is Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has previously indicated the pro-Trump mob was “fed lies” by the former president about a “stolen” 2020 election.
(Dozens upon dozens of GOP lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results failed in state and federal courts due to a lack of evidence or standing, and Mr Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said the Justice Department had discovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud — in any state.)
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” Mr McConnell told the Times for its impeachment trial overview.
But in a sign the GOP leader has grown more and more uneasy with the prospect of voting to convict Mr Trump, Mr McConnell on Tuesday voted in favour of Mr Paul’s motion to dismiss the impeachment trial on constitutional grounds.
The nine House Democratic impeachment managers remain hopeful that Mr McConnell and at least 16 other Republicans will dispense with their already-dubiously grounded procedural complaints about the impeachment trial and conclude that the evidence for Mr Trump’s guilt is overwhelming.
“As the days go on, more and more evidence comes out about the president's involvement in the incitement of this insurrection, the incitement of this riot, and also his dereliction of duty once it was going on,” impeachment manager Joaquin Castro of Texas told NPR last weekend.
As for the bulk of the Senate GOP who have not yet said how they will vote, “I would hope that, first of all, they keep their powder dry, that they listen to all the evidence and wait for the case to be presented,” Mr Castro said.
“But most of all, at the end of the day, what we need is for people to put country over person — in other words, over Donald Trump — and also country over party, Republican or Democrat,” he said.