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Repulican US senators Bill Cassidy, left and John Neely Kennedy, right, answer media questions while waiting for the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence at the Baton Rouge Regional Airport Tuesday before meeting with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and local officials at GOSEP and later, at LSU.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana left the door open to voting to convict former President Donald Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial on charges of inciting an insurrection, saying he will listen to the evidence presented at trial to make his decision.

Cassidy, a Republican who handily won re-election in November, joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and more than a dozen other Republican senators who have said they are undecided on how they will vote.

Several Republican senators have dismissed the impeachment trial outright, saying they won’t vote to convict the former president for his role in inciting the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. According to the New York Times, at least 27 Republicans have said they will vote “no” on convicting Trump, while 16 Republicans are undecided, not including Cassidy. A number of those Republicans say they believe impeaching the former president would be unconstitutional, but Cassidy said he is listening to arguments on both sides of the issue. 

Cassidy said it is his “constitutional responsibility” to attend the trial, and said he won’t “prejudge” the evidence.

“I’ll listen to the evidence and seek out as much as possible what the truth is and that will determine how I vote,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy on Tuesday sided with 44 other Republican Senators, including Louisiana's other Sen. John Kennedy, in a procedural vote brought by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky that sought to declare the impeachment proceedings unconstitutional. The Senate dismissed the motion on a 55-45 vote. Cassidy's spokesman Cole Avery said the vote was "not an indication of how he may ultimately vote after hearing evidence at the trial." 

Kennedy said in a statement he believes the impeachment proceedings are unconstitutional. 

"Based on the information I have right now, I voted today and will vote again later in the impeachment trial to dismiss the impeachment proceedings against former President Trump," Kennedy said. "Additionally, these proceedings, in part, represent a thinly veiled effort by the uber-elites in our country, who look down on most Americans, to denigrate further those people who chose to vote for President Trump and not vote for President Biden.”

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Cassidy said Trump’s “worst-case scenario” would be if evidence was presented at trial showing he received warnings from the FBI that his supporters were planning to plant pipe bombs and storm the Capitol. But he said if Trump was found to have merely told his supports to “fight,” that would be another thing. 

In Trump’s first impeachment trial, last year, both Cassidy and Kennedy voted to acquit Trump. In that trial, with Republicans holding a majority, the Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Trump of abuse of power and 53-47 to acquit him of a charge of obstruction of Congress. Two-thirds of senators must vote for conviction for it to succeed. 

U.S. House set to impeach Trump, but Louisiana Republicans not expected to lend their support

House Democrats have delivered the impeachment case to the Senate, and a trial is set to begin the week of Feb. 8. Trump is the only U.S. president in history to be impeached twice, after 10 Republicans in the House joined Democrats in voting to impeach him.

Trump typically commands considerable influence over Louisiana Republican elected officials. He won Louisiana by 20 points in 2016 and about 18 points in 2020.

The Louisiana Republican Party, which is led by Chairman Louis Gurvich, said in a statement earlier this month the effort to impeach Trump was a “fantasy to smear President Trump’s legacy in the history books.”

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com.