The Atlantic Politics Daily: What’s Unpredictable About the Impeachment Trial

67: That’s how many senators would have to buck Trump in the impending impeachment trial for the president to be booted from the White House.

It’s Tuesday, January 7. In today’s newsletter: The significance of 67. Plus: The other, overlooked swing voters.


(Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic)

The magic number is 67.

That’s how many senators would have to buck Trump in the impending impeachment trial for the president to be booted from the White House.

To count it another way, at least 20 Senate Republicans would have to vote to convict Trump.

Don’t write the impeachment trial off yet as the political equivalent of The Irishman: significant, drawn out, and ultimately kind of … boring.

Even a few Republican defections could still make the trial a lot more interesting. Considering that many senators haven’t made their impeachment views clear, surprises are still possible.

1. The Vulnerables

Though they’ve mostly rallied behind the president, Senate Republicans up for reelection in purple states might soon feel the heat on impeachment from their constituents.

Arizona Senator Martha McSally’s perch was tenuous to begin with. She lost a close race in 2018, only to be appointed to the late John McCain’s seat a few weeks later.

“Not since Abraham Lincoln has a Republican scored a better consolation prize for losing a Senate race,” Russell Berman wrote at the time.

2. The Loyalists

The list of Trump’s zealous defenders in the Senate is a long one—from Lindsey Graham, the president’s golf buddy who’s gone full MAGA, to Ted Cruz, whose father Trump once (falsely) accused of killing John F. Kennedy, and whose wife Trump once ridiculed.

But it’s freshman Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, the lesser-known of the loyalist crew, who’s most directly positioned himself as the go-to leader of Trumpism after Trump. Read my colleague Emma Green’s profile of Hawley, whose economic positions sound nothing like the rest of his party’s.

3. The Critics

Mitt Romney isn’t the only GOP senator who’s been critical of Trump. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in particular seems to have kindled an independent streak, voting against the GOP’s health-care-repeal efforts and against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination—the lone GOP senator to do so.

Here’s the full guide to the other key groups of Senate Republicans to watch.

—Saahil Desai


(Leah Millis / Reuters)

Scattered protesters supporting impeachment walk around silently today inside the Hart Senate office building on Capitol Hill.


(The Atlantic / Getty)

1. “Maybe these persona bots will be controlled by foreign actors. Maybe it’ll be domestic political groups. Maybe it’ll be the candidates themselves.”

Is the future just bots yelling at other bots? Artificial intelligence is getting smarter, better, and sneakier, meaning political conversations are only going to get noisier. That’s something that should concern all Americans, Bruce Schneier writes.

2. “People of color and young people are treated like political cattle who must be whipped into shape to turn out for candidates they often don’t like.”

The term “swing voter” often focuses on the white, sometimes working-class Americans who oscillate between supporting the Republican or Democratic on Election Day. That narrow view overlooks the many voters of color who sit out elections because they reject or dislike the Democrats’ drift, Ibram X. Kendi writes.

3. “His money allowed him to drown out the opposition—and often made potential rivals hold their tongue.”

When Michael Bloomberg spends his billions of dollars, observers often focus on his unprecedented amount of spending in the 2020 primary (his campaign just secured a Super Bowl ad spot). But the former New York mayor’s track record shows that his personal spending and donations while in office reveal more about how he operates, Edward-Isaac Dovere writes.


Even though President Trump has tried to prop up coal-burning plants like this one outside Rock Springs, Wyoming, the coal industry had its worst year ever in 2019. (JIM URQUHART / REUTERS)

Coal ↓; Everything Else ↑

The only bit of good news in a new report released today is that American coal consumption reached its lowest point since 1975, and that has led to real lives saved and emissions reductions.

As coal declined, the health of ordinary Americans improved. From 2005 to 2016, coal-plant shutdowns led to such significant air-quality improvements that they saved the lives of about 26,000 Americans, according to a separate study published this week in Nature Sustainability. (Data is not yet available to extrapolate those results to 2019.)

The bad news is everything else, Robinson Meyer writes.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an associate editor on our Politics team and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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