WASHINGTON – Minnesota's U.S. senators, witnesses to the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol and now jurors in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for inciting it, said Wednesday that they have not given up hope he'll be convicted.
"I think anyone who saw what happened knows what this president did," Klobuchar said in an interview shortly before the trial's second day got underway.
Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Minnesota's other senator, sided with fellow Democrats and six Republicans a day earlier in voting that the trial should proceed. But the 44 Republican votes against suggest the Senate is likely to fall short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.
"I'm not going to concede that right now," Klobuchar said. "It doesn't mean that that's the way everyone's going to vote. … You've got to make a decision on the facts, now that the Senate has found the trial to be constitutional. And [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell has said as such. So let's see what they do."
Smith said she directly faces the Republican side of the chamber, from her vantage point on the Senate floor. She said she's been encouraged to see most paying close attention and taking notes.
"That tells me they're learning something," said Smith.
Spotted from the press gallery, Klobuchar could be seen listening intently and jotting notes herself. On Wednesday, senators sat with eyes glued to video monitors, as the House members prosecuting the case scrolled through dozens of video clips of Trump using language in the months leading up to the election that previewed his defiant remarks to supporters at the White House rally held shortly before the attack.
Trump frequently used terms like "greatest rigged election in history" six months before he actually lost, the evidence showed.
Many Republicans, even some senators who voted the proceedings were unconstitutional, said the president's lawyers were outmatched by the House managers during opening statements. But Klobuchar, a former county prosecutor, said it was wrong to focus on the performance of the lawyers.
"Sure, they didn't do a good job. But the bottom line is it's hard to defend the indefensible," she said.
Some lawmakers have talked of their own fear that day. Klobuchar, who was involved in managing the process of counting Electoral College votes, said she was too consumed with tasks in front of her to worry about her own personal safety.
"I was focused on getting back in there, on figuring out how we'd keep counting the electoral votes. I was focused on working with police to locate all the senators, which I was asked to do," Klobuchar said.
Smith was also in the Senate chamber as the angry crowd breached the Capitol building. She said she texted family members to tell them not to worry about what they were seeing on TV, only to be rushed out of the Senate chamber minutes later to a secure location where she and other senators spent the next several hours. She was able to call her husband from there and let him know she was OK, Smith said.
"It was almost in retrospect for me, how scary the situation actually was. It hit me a couple days later," Smith said.
Like Klobuchar, Smith said she's hopeful a few more Republicans vote to convict but she's realistic about actually reaching the two-thirds threshold. Still, Smith said the impeachment and trial have been worth it.
"I do believe that the House impeachment constrained the president in his final days in office, that in some ways reduced the great danger in those last few days," she said. "I also think that putting out a record of what happened through this impeachment trial will have great value to the country and all the people who are watching, and to historians."
Klobuchar called Trump responsible for the deaths during and after the Capitol siege: "These people would not have died if he had not incited this riot, this angry mob."
Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413