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GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party

Republican senators are wrestling over what they want their party’s future relationship with Donald Trump to be after he leaves office on Wednesday.

Faced with a deeply divided Senate Republican Conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is giving his colleagues free rein to vote their conscience when the Senate tries Trump on charges that he incited an insurrection.

McConnell is telling colleagues that he himself hasn’t decided whether to vote to convict Trump on a House-passed article of impeachment and associates describe the GOP leader “as furious” over that attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.ADVERTISEMENT

The New York Times reported that McConnell has told associates that he sees the impeachment effort as a way for the Republican Party to break with Trump, although the GOP leader later discounted what he called “speculation” in the press.

A Senate vote to convict Trump would need at least 17 Republican votes to be successful, if all 50 Democratic senators vote to convict. A second vote could be held to prevent Trump from running for office again. That would require a simple Senate majority.

While a good number of Republican senators would like to break free of what they see as the destabilizing and often erratic leadership of Trump, Republican strategists and aides warn there is a serious political risk to banning him from future political office.

“I don’t think it’s an easy call, but I think there would be a lot more Republican support evident if it were not linked to the Democrats’ clear desire to prevent him from running for office ever again,” said Vin Weber, a Republican strategist. “That’s the real question politically.

“A lot of people in both parties who want Trump just gone think, ‘That’s good, we’ll just get rid of Trump. He can’t run again,’ ” he added.

But he cautioned the “hardcore Trump people, which probably means a majority of the Republican voters, still view Trump as their leader [and] they view the election as stolen.”ADVERTISEMENT

“If we take the step of banning Trump from running again, they’re not going to say anything’s been stolen. They’re simply going to say the power structure of the country has prevented our leader from running again and they’ll be right,” he added. “You’ve created an impossible situation in terms of trying to soften the divisions a little bit in the country and soften the vote on the hardcore pro-Trump side.”

Some Republicans are already using that as a justification to oppose impeachment.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), an influential member of the Senate GOP conference who led the effort to put together a Republican police reform bill last year, warned that impeaching Trump would undercut efforts to promote national unity after the strife of 2020.

“An impeachment vote will only lead to more hate and a deeply fractured nation,” he said, arguing that convicting Trump would “fly in direct opposition to what President-elect Joe Biden has been calling for all year.”

At the same time, outrage has mounted within the Senate Republican Conference as new details about last week’s attack on Congress emerge.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing Friday that they had “strong evidence” the rioters who breached the Capitol intended “to capture and assassinate elected officials,” including Vice President Pence.

That revelation sparked outrage from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), an influential conservative who may run for president in 2024.

“These men weren’t drunks who got rowdy — they were terrorists attacking this country’s constitutionally-mandated transfer of power. They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis. They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Sasse said in a statement.  

Trump’s plummeting popularity, his words of encouragement to a crowd of supporters before the storming of the Capitol last week and his debunked and unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen has GOP senators looking for a way to decisively break with the outgoing president.

A small group of Republican senators has signaled they are open to voting to convict Trump for inciting the crowd.

“I believe that this president has committed an impeachable offense through his words on the sixth of January, and leading up to the sixth of January, when he was not honest to the American people about the election and the election results,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told KTUU, an Alaskan news channel.

Sasse and Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have also either said Trump committed impeachable offenses or blamed him for inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol.ADVERTISEMENT

But Republican aides say Democrats won’t get 17 GOP senators to vote to convict Trump after he leaves office.

“It’s an opportunity to purge Trump, yes. I don’t know there are 17 votes to do so. This is more of an opportunity for the Democrats to continue to try to destroy the Republican Party. What the Democrats have very successfully done is politicize impeachment with no hearings, no process in the House,” said a Senate GOP aide.

The aide predicted that Trump’s legal team will respond on the Senate floor with statements and videos by Democratic politicians urging their supporters to “fight” and expressing sympathy to the Black Lives Matter protests last year, which resulted in property destruction and deaths in several cities.

Already Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been called on by several Democratic colleagues to resign because of his role in opposing the final tally of electoral votes for Biden, is pointing to Democrats’ support for the summer protests.

Some Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) will try to sidestep the question of whether Trump committed impeachable offenses by arguing that impeachment does not apply to a private citizen, which is what Trump will be by the time the Senate trial begins.

“The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office— not an inquest against private citizens,” he said in a statement.ADVERTISEMENT

There’s also growing uncertainty whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will even send the House-passed article of impeachment to the Senate this month as doing so would force a trial to begin immediately, which would stall work on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal Biden unveiled Thursday and hang up confirmation of his Cabinet nominees.

The Republican aide said Republicans are not likely to give Democrats consent to work on a coronavirus relief bill and confirm Biden’s nominees while the trial is going on, which means the incoming president’s agenda could be stalled for weeks.

Some Democrats are already balking at putting the Senate on pause for as long two weeks to a month to conduct an impeachment trial.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), an influential centrist, says holding a Senate trial after Trump leaves office “doesn’t make any common sense whatsoever.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Friday his priority is to move a relief package and Biden’s nominees before holding a trial to convict an ex-president.

The Senate trial could not begin before 1 p.m. on Jan. 20, after Trump is out of office, because the upper chamber is in a recess until Tuesday. 

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BREAKING

Democrat Efforts to Overturn Certified Iowa Election Backfire

Democrats’ partisan efforts to overturn Iowa’s certified Second Congressional District election have backfired after numerous Democrats have come out against the plan, in addition to losing public support.

Democrat Representative Elissa Slotkin (MI) joins the lengthening list of Democrats opposed to the overturning of Iowa’s Second Congressional District election. Slotkin told the Skullduggery podcast, “I’m sorry, I cannot support overturning an election, especially given everything that’s gone on and what we’ve been hearing from the Republican side of the aisle.”

Slotkin also spoke to Yahoo News:

“I mean, that’s their whole schtick. They attempted to delegitimize the results of the election and not certify those elections … They tried to use violence to stop us from certifying an election,” Slotkin told Yahoo News. “I can’t turn around and vote to decertify something that’s been stamped and approved in Iowa.”

Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH), Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Dean Phillips (D-NM), Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Rep. David Price (D-NC) have already come out against overturning Iowa’s certified election.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has compiled a list of vulnerable Democrats who have not publicly stated their position on the matter.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday to express his thoughts on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) efforts to overturn the election results.

Grassley said Mariannette Miller-Meeks is now representative of Iowa’s Second Congressional District. “Her opponent chose to forgo her right under Iowa law to present any claims of election irregularities to an independent panel of judges. That’s because, under Iowa law, she has no legal claim,” Grassley said.

“Representative Miller-Meeks won fair and square, as certified by Iowa’s bipartisan Election Board. The House Administration Committee is moving forward with a process to overturn this certified election,” stating it will “exercise its discretion to depart from Iowa law.”

Grassley and Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst released a joined statement in December about Iowa Democrat Rita Hart’s efforts:

Both the original vote count and recount confirmed Mariannette Miller-Meeks won her election. There are legal avenues through which candidates can litigate election disputes if they believe there are specific election irregularities. Rita Hart declined to take legitimate legal action in Iowa courts and instead chose to appeal to Washington partisans who should have no say in who represents Iowans. That’s an insult to Iowa voters and our nonpartisan election process. We are confident in the fairness and accuracy of Iowa’s election system.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also rebuked Pelosi’s (D-CA) claims on the Senate floor for looking into “overturn a state-certified election” in the House.

McConnell reiterated Miller-Meeks won her race by six votes and was sworn into office in January with the House members’ newest class. “Two months ago, every Democrat, cable news channel, and every liberal news channel was melting down over some Republicans’ efforts to dispute state-certified election results here in congress. I opposed those efforts myself,” McConnell explained.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote on Tuesday against the efforts to overturn the election.

The editorial board communicated, the Democrats’ lawyer Marc Elias “says the House should ignore state law to steal a House seat.”

“Ms. Hart lost by six votes to GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. But rather than asserting that if state election law is strictly followed his client would win,” the editorial board wrote. Mr. Elias tells House Democrats that they may need to bend the law to reach their desired outcome.

The editorial board continued:

That sentence wasn’t a slip. Mr. Elias adds that “when voter intent can be determined but a ballot is not, for one reason or another, in strict conformity with state law,” it should be counted. He urges the Committee to “exercise its discretion to depart from Iowa law, and adopt counting rules that ‘disenfranchise the smallest possible number of voters.’”

Mr. Elias is right as a constitutional matter that each house of Congress has sweeping authority to “judge” its Members’ elections. But the explicit suggestion that state law be discarded gives the political game away.

“Equitable approach,” sure. Another way of putting it is that an Iowa court would have followed state law, while Mr. Elias hopes Democrats in Congress will ignore it to count the votes they want to count.

“This is a power grab, pure and simple, and Republicans should be shouting about it to everyone in Iowa and beyond,” the board said.

On Wednesday, the Washington Examiner editorial board also wrote against the efforts to overturn the election, outlining the opinions of the Democrats who are against the effort.

Pelosi is using the effort to be “blatantly partisan, dishonest, and anti-democratic that a few members of Pelosi’s own party caucus have come out against her.” They emphasized Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips’s statement: “just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should.”

The editorial board continued:

To say this is hypocritical would be an understatement. Just a few months ago, Democrats rightly denounced former President Donald Trump for trying to overturn President Biden’s victory in several swing states. Pelosi’s actions at this point utterly lack legitimacy and are identical in essence to Trump’s when he encouraged Republican senators to overturn the Electoral College vote.

Pelosi’s goal is the same: to grab power after losing the election.

House Democrats have argued that Hart has every right to challenge the election’s results given how close it was. Funny — that’s exactly what Trump said.

The board finished by saying Pelosi’s power grab shows the Democrats’ willingness “to steal this seat unless enough Democrats have a conscience and decide, like Phillips, that just because they can steal it doesn’t mean they should.”

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BREAKING

Putin challenged Biden to a live debate after being called a ‘killer,’ and the White House just responded

Russian President Vladimir Putin challenged President Joe Biden after being called a “killer” and the White House responded on Thursday during a media briefing

Putin issued the challenge after Biden agreed to the description of the Russian leader during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

“It takes one to know one,” Putin taunted on Thursday. “We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are.”

“I’ve just thought of this now. I want to invite President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it actually live. But with no delays, directly in an open, direct discussion,” Putin said in Moscow.

“It seems to me, it would be interesting both for Russian people and for the U.S. people, as well as for many other countries,” Putin added.

When asked about Putin’s request, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president was very busy.

“I’ll have to get back to you if that is something we’re entertaining. I would say that the President already had a conversation already with President Putin, even as there are more world leaders that he has not yet engaged with,” Psaki said.

“And we engage with Russian leaders, members of the government, at all levels. But I don’t have anything to report to you in terms of a future meeting,” she added.

In the same interview with Stephanopoulos, Biden said that Putin would pay for trying to meddle in the U.S. election by influencing public opinion.

“The price he is going to pay, well, you’ll see shortly,” Biden threatened.

Here’s more of Putin’s response to Biden’s remarks:

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BREAKING

Trump to claim he is ‘presumptive 2024 nominee,’ leader of GOP in CPAC speech: report

Former president Donald Trump will claim he is the leader of the Republican party and its “presumptive 2024 nominee” when he makes his first public appearance since leaving office during the Conservative Political Action Conference next weekend in Orlando, according to a report.

A longtime Trump adviser told Axios his CPAC speech will be a “show of force,” and said the message will be: “I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I’m still in charge.” The source reportedly added that “payback is his chief obsession.”

Trump’s advisers will reportedly meet with him at Mar-a-Lago this week to plan his next political moves, and to set up the framework for kingmaking in the 2022 midterm elections.

According to Axios, Trump is expected to go after the ​10 House Republicans who voted to convict him in his impeachment trial, spurred by the Jan. 6 riot at the U. S. Capitol, and the seven GOP Senators who voted with Democrats to convict.

Trump was acquitted, with 57 senators voting for his conviction — short of the required two-thirds majority — and 43 voting against conviction.

He also reportedly plans to argue in the CPAC speech that many of his predictions about President Biden have already come true.

“Trump effectively is the Republican Party,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News. “The only chasm is between Beltway insiders and grassroots Republicans around the country. When you attack President Trump, you’re attacking the Republican grassroots.”

Trump has found support from state Republican officials who censured some members of Congress who voted against him. Meanwhile, his leadership PAC, Save America, has $75 million on hand to help set up primary challenges to sitting Republicans who went against him, as well as a database of tens of millions of names.

A Suffolk University/ USA Today poll found that 46% of Trump supporters would abandon the Republican Party and join a Trump party should he decide to create one, versus 27% who would stay with the GOP.

Half of the individuals polled said the Republican Party should become “more loyal to Trump,” even if it means losing support from establishment Republicans, versus 19% saying the party should become less loyal to Trump and more aligned with establishment Republicans. 

The survey of 1,000 Trump voters, identified from 2020 polls, was taken by landline and cellphone last Monday through Friday. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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