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’21 Empty Seats’: More Than One-Third of GOP Senators Reportedly Left Room During Schiff’s Speech


A large bloc of Republican Senators reportedly skipped large portions of Wednesday’s impeachment trial, flouting Senate rules requiring them to remain in their seats at all times during the proceedings, according to journalist Michael McAuliff.

“Just counted 21 empty seats on the GOP side of the Senate, 2 on the Dem side, a couple hours into [Adam] Schiff’s presentation. Some are just stretching their legs, but most are not in the chamber. Some of them have been out of there for a while,” McAuliff said.

That means more than one-third of 53 Republican senators tasked with deciding the president’s fate all missed the same segment of the historic trial. Among those absent from the action “for a long time” were Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La), and Jim Risch (R-Idaho).

While Graham had already publicly stated his belief that the impeachment proceedings were a sham–and backed a plan to have the charges against President Doanld Trump dismissed with a pre-trial motion–Sen. Cassidy on Tuesday said he planned to “listen to both sides with an open mind” before reaching a decision.

Wednesday marked the second time Sen. Risch missed a significant portion of the proceedings, as he became the first senator to fall asleep during the trial Tuesday, napping for approximately 15 minutes, according to the Washington Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Calif.) last week penned a letter to their colleagues outlining the rules for the proceeding, writing that “Senators should plan to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings,” and should “remain in their seats at all times they are on the Senate floor during the impeachment proceedings.”

Yahoo News Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward also noted the absence of the chamber’s GOP members.

“Regardless of where one stands (or sits) on the matter, it is a sad state of government that any Senator, absent some legitimate reason of course, is shirking their legislative/constitutional duties which they have been elected by the people to uphold,” wrote national security lawyer Mark Zaid, one of the attorneys representing the Ukraine whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Attorneys Bradley P. Moss (Zaid’s law partner) and Susan Hennessey (Lawfare’s Executive Editor) also noted the absurdity of those acting as “jurors” not being in attendance during the presentation of arguments.

[image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.