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McConnell Was Done With Trump. His Party Said Not So Fast.

Still, the always-restrained Kentuckian never mounted a campaign to persuade other Republicans to join him, knowing how difficult it would be for his party to break from someone who polls indicate that half of G.O.P. voters believe should remain their leader. If all senators were voting, it would take 17 Republicans joining every Democrat to convict Mr. Trump, something that seemed all but unthinkable after Tuesday’s vote.

In the week since Mr. Trump skipped President Biden’s inauguration and decamped to his private club in Florida, it had become increasingly clear that his departure from the Oval Office had done little, if anything, to loosen his grip on rank-and-file Republicans in Congress. While few have defended his conduct, many fewer had dared to back the impeachment push. The 10 House Republicans who did join Democrats in voting to impeach him faced fierce backlash, and in the Senate, constituents were flooding offices with phone calls indicating they expected their senators to stand behind Mr. Trump.

“Let’s face it, many of the people there — they want to be re-elected, most of them,” said Bob Corker, a former Republican senator from Tennessee who retired in 2018 after clashing with Mr. Trump. “For those people, whose service in the Senate is their entire life, I’m sure just what they are hearing back home has an effect on them.”

When Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, raised an objection to Mr. Trump’s trial, arguing that trying an ex-president would be unconstitutional, 45 of the 50 Republicans in the Senate — including Mr. McConnell — supported his challenge.

By Wednesday, the Republican Party stated an official position against holding Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

“Not only is this impeachment trial a distraction from the important issues Americans want Congress focused on, it is unconstitutional, and I join the vast majority of Senate Republicans in opposing it,” said Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman.

Far from elucidating his position, Mr. McConnell has adopted a sphinx-like silence in public. As late as Tuesday morning, according to Republicans briefed on the conversations, his own aides were uncertain how he planned to vote on Mr. Paul’s motion. He has declined to explain his vote, telling reporters on Wednesday that as a juror in the coming proceeding, he planned to keep an open mind.


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