WASHINGTON — The seed for Senator Bill Cassidy’s choice to discover Donald J. Trump responsible of inciting an revolt was planted sooner or later final fall, when he acquired an e mail from a buddy that was stuffed with the then-president’s false claims a couple of stolen election.
Alarmed that Mr. Trump’s lies had been gaining credence, Mr. Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, turned a part of a small minority in his get together — and one in every of just a few officers within the South — to acknowledge President Biden’s victory. Months later, after Mr. Trump’s marketing campaign to overturn the election culminated within the Capitol riot, Mr. Cassidy was one in every of solely seven Republican senators who voted on Saturday to convict him.
Taken at face worth, Mr. Cassidy — a conservative, newly re-elected doctor with a unusual streak — has little in frequent with the opposite six senators who broke with their get together and located Mr. Trump responsible in essentially the most bipartisan vote for a presidential impeachment conviction in United States historical past. Most had been going through intense backlash on Sunday from Republicans of their states furious concerning the vote, as have the ten House Republicans who supported the impeachment final month.
But the senators had been united by a standard thread: Each of them, for their very own causes, was unafraid of political retribution from Mr. Trump or his supporters.
“Two are retiring, and three are not up until 2026, and who knows what the world will look like five years from now,” mentioned Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “It looked pretty different five years ago than it did today. All seven of them have a measure of independence that those who have to run in 2022 in a closed Republican primary just don’t have.”
For Mr. Cassidy, it was a way of shock on the former president’s actions, beginning lengthy earlier than the assault on Jan. 6, that performed the dominant function. In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Cassidy mentioned Mr. Trump had “trumpeted that lie” concerning the election for months, then sat by for hours as lawmakers and his personal vp had been beneath assault within the Capitol and did nothing — apart from to name Republican senators to ask them to proceed difficult the election outcomes.
“That anger simmers in the background,” Mr. Cassidy mentioned. “My whole life, reading about great men and women who sacrifice for our country, who sacrifice so that we could have the freedoms that we have here today — and the idea that somebody would attempt to usurp those and destroy them?”
“It still angers me,” he continued. “It just angers the heck out of me.”
Many Republicans privately shared Mr. Cassidy’s rage, however the truth that solely seven of them had been in the end prepared to discover Mr. Trump responsible underscored the extraordinary fealty the previous president nonetheless instructions within the get together.
Even with Mr. Trump out of the White House, Republican lawmakers have been reluctant to cross the previous president for worry of invoking his wrath and infuriating the first voters who nonetheless adore him. All however one of many Republicans who voted to convict Mr. Trump is not going to face voters on the poll field for years — or ever once more, within the case of two who’re set to retire in 2022.
Mr. Cassidy gained re-election in November, as did two others who voted to convict the previous president — Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Ben Sasse of Nebraska — which means they’ve 5 years earlier than their names will seem on a poll. Two others, Senators Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, are retiring. The different two, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, have lengthy since established their willingness to break with their get together, and notably with Mr. Trump.
Ms. Murkowski is the one one of many group going through re-election subsequent yr, making her vote essentially the most politically dangerous of all of them.
She famously returned to Washington even after shedding a Republican major in 2010 by defeating each the Republican and Democratic nominees in an audacious write-in marketing campaign, and he or she has appeared untroubled by the potential political penalties of her vote.
That may be partly influenced by a change in Alaska’s voting system: Voters in November authorized a measure to remove get together primaries and institute a ranked-choice contest wherein any candidate might prevail, blunting the affect of the hard-right voters who determine most Republican primaries.
At the Capitol on Saturday, Ms. Murkowski mentioned she owed it to her constituents to vote the way in which she did. “If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?” she informed reporters.
And in a blistering assertion on Sunday, Ms. Murkowski defined why she deemed Mr. Trump responsible.
“If months of lies, organizing a rally of supporters in an effort to thwart the work of Congress, encouraging a crowd to march on the Capitol, and then taking no meaningful action to stop the violence once it began is not worthy of impeachment, conviction and disqualification,” she mentioned, “I cannot imagine what is.”
Republicans had regarded Ms. Murkowski as a senator who was doubtless to defect, together with Ms. Collins. The two have beforehand linked arms to break from their get together on vital votes, together with once they helped tank a Republican-led effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Collins was re-elected in November, triumphing in a brutal contest that few anticipated her to win, as voters reaffirmed their embrace of her long-held unbiased streak.
“This impeachment trial is not about any single word uttered by President Trump on Jan. 6, 2021,” Ms. Collins mentioned in a speech from the Senate floor on Saturday. “It is instead about President Trump’s failure to obey the oath he swore on Jan. 20, 2017. His actions to interfere with the peaceful transition of power — the hallmark of our Constitution and our American democracy — were an abuse of power and constitute grounds for conviction.”
In the weeks earlier than the impeachment trial, Ms. Collins huddled in a number of Zoom conferences with a crew of legal professionals, together with exterior advisers and members of her employees, to talk about the constitutionality of placing a former president on trial and whether or not Mr. Trump might mount a protection premised on his proper to free speech, in accordance to Richard H. Fallon Jr., a Harvard Law professor and adviser to Ms. Collins who participated within the discussions.
“I don’t think there was any substantial disagreement at the end about the constitutional points,” he mentioned.
Mr. Cassidy’s vote to convict was much less anticipated. A gastroenterologist who was re-elected simply in November to a second time period, he’s a dependable conservative. But he has proven an growing willingness in current weeks to buck his get together in an try to work with Mr. Biden and his Democratic colleagues, and markedly much less curiosity in humoring Mr. Trump.
That method has resulted in an intense fallout at residence. The Louisiana Republican Party on Saturday moved to censure him for his vote, and Mr. Cassidy mentioned folks can be “aghast at how negative” the feedback on his Facebook web page had change into.
But he additionally mentioned that he had acquired “a heck of a lot of support” in texts and calls from constituents — and that he anticipated that sentiment to develop.
“The president spent two months building this up,” Mr. Cassidy mentioned. “It’s going be hard; people just don’t flip on a deeply held belief from someone who they trust just like that. But the more the facts come out, the more that people will move to this position.”
For his colleagues who’re retiring, voters’ reactions had been much less of a priority. Neither Mr. Burr nor Mr. Toomey was a very vocal critic of Mr. Trump whereas he was in workplace, and each skewed fiercely conservative on coverage issues, particularly Mr. Toomey, a fiscal hawk and former president of the pro-business Club for Growth.
But each have tangled with the previous president in their very own methods. As Mr. Trump continued to falsely declare that he had gained the election, Mr. Toomey sharply pushed again and went as far as to blast his personal colleagues for attempting to overturn the outcomes.
Mr. Burr, then the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, subpoenaed testimony from Donald Trump Jr. in 2019 as a part of his work conducting the one bipartisan congressional investigation into Russian election interference. The former president’s son responded by beginning a political conflict in opposition to the senator in an try to flip his get together in opposition to him.
Perhaps essentially the most predictable votes got here from two of Mr. Trump’s most biting critics within the Senate: Mr. Sasse and Mr. Romney, who was the one Republican to vote to convict Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial.
While the 2 senators have employed equally scathing language to excoriate the previous president, they’re at very completely different factors of their careers. Mr. Romney, 73, having tried and failed to attain the White House, has positioned himself as an elder statesman attempting to steer the get together from Mr. Trump’s affect whatever the political fallout. Mr. Sasse, 48, a youthful and bold up-and-comer, has staked his hopes on main a post-Trump Republican Party.
Now, Mr. Sasse is going through censure threats from the Nebraska Republican Party. An effort final yr by a Republican legislator in Utah to censure Mr. Romney for his first impeachment vote fell flat after the state’s Republican governor defended the senator, who faces re-election in 2024.
It is unclear how a lot the seven senators mentioned the decision earlier than the vote on Saturday. But Mr. Cassidy quietly shared his choice with Mr. Burr throughout the closing arguments of the trial, surreptitiously passing the North Carolina Republican a notice on the Senate flooring.
“I am a yes,” it learn.
Mr. Burr nodded in silent settlement.
Emily Cochrane and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.