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Misleading Posts Target Nine Republicans on Impeachment


Quick Take

Posts circulating amid the Senate impeachment trial misleadingly accuse nine Republican senators of having “joined Democrats on impeachment.” The claim originated in October as a list of senators who had not yet co-sponsored an impeachment-related resolution — but six of them did sign on to that measure.


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Even though the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is still in the opening arguments stage, popular social media posts shared on Facebook in recent days are dubiously calling out nine Republican senators over the case.

The Facebook posts misleadingly claim that the nine senators have “joined Democrats on impeachment,” even though there has been little action taken by the senators thus far.

Those named in the posts include Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Cory Gardner, Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, Johnny Isakson (who retired in December), Dan Sullivan and Rob Portman.

The specific list of the nine senators does not appear to be based on new developments, but instead lifted from reports in October about an impeachment-related resolution in the Senate (which would explain why the now-retired Isakson is included). That resolution, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, expressed criticism of the House’s impeachment inquiry process and demanded that the lower chamber hold a floor vote to officially initiate a formal investigation.

On Oct. 24, the day the legislation was introduced, The Hill reported that the same group of nine Republican senators had not signed on as co-sponsors.

The Hill, Oct. 24, 2019: The GOP senators not cosponsoring the resolution as of Thursday afternoon, according to a list from Graham’s office, are: Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Some people spread the list of the senators online at the time — a Twitter account called “Red Nation Rising,” for example, named each of the senators and called them “treasonous RINOs in Senate” that “support Democrat witch hunt.”

It may be a leap to claim that the senators “support Democrat witch hunt” simply because they didn’t co-sponsor one non-binding resolution, but the argument is further deflated by the fact that most of the senators named actually did co-sponsor the resolution in question.

By Oct. 25, the day after the measure was introduced and the initial report in The Hill, Gardner, Alexander, Enzi, Sullivan, Isakson and Portman all signaled they would co-sponsor. Only three of the nine senators — Collins, Murkowski and Romney — did not co-sponsor the resolution, which never advanced to a vote. Days later, on Oct. 31, the House voted, largely along party lines, to pass a resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry.

On Twitter, some users recently have also revived the full list, claiming that the “9 Senate Republicans did not back the resolution against the … impeachment inquiry.”

The Facebook posts further ignore the facts by simply offering the names and the assertion that they “joined Democrats on impeachment.” Circulating in the current news cycle, the posts misleadingly suggest that the senators have somehow sided with Democrats in an impeachment trial which, of course, is still unfolding.

The rules of the trial as it proceeds hinge on a simple majority vote. Republicans control the Senate 53-47, so the party’s grip on how the trial is shaped could be lost if just four senators vote with Democrats. So far that hasn’t happened.

Collins did vote with Democrats on one unsuccessful amendment proposed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, which would have allowed additional time to file responses to motions, but Republicans have otherwise voted in unison. They unanimously tabled, for example, an amendment proposed by Democrats to allow for the subpoena of witnesses and documents. A few Republicans — including Collins, Murkowski and Romney — have suggested they’re open to potentially hearing from witnesses later in the trial.

Statements made by the senators targeted in the Facebook posts also don’t support the notion that they’ve “joined Democrats on impeachment.”

Sullivan recently called the House’s impeachment proceedings “partisan, rushed and unfair.” Enzi’s spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News that the senator “will continue to listen to all the evidence on the Articles of Impeachment during the trial. Once all the evidence is presented, he will make a final decision.” 

Romney has said the allegations are “extremely serious” and require “that the Senate put political biases aside, and make good faith efforts to listen to arguments from both sides and thoroughly review facts and evidence.”

Even if some Republicans do cast votes with Democrats at points during the trial, it would take two-thirds of the senators present — or 67 of the 100 senators — to actually convict Trump.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Carney, Jordain. “Senate GOP introduces resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry.” The Hill. 24 Oct 2019.

U.S. Senate. “S. Res. 378, A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the House of Representatives should, consistent with long-standing practice and precedent, prior to proceeding any further with its impeachment investigation into President Donald J. Trump, vote to open a formal impeachment inquiry and provide President Trump with fundamental constitutional protections.” (as introduced 24 Oct 2019)

U.S. Senate. S. Amdt. 1292 to S. Res. 483, roll call vote #23. 22 Jan 2020.

U.S. Senate. S. Amdt. 1293 to S. Res. 483, roll call vote #24. 22 Jan 2020.