National Post (Latest Edition)

Trump’s acquittal exposes deep rifts in Republican Party

Seven who voted to convict face blowback

- Lauren Fedor © The Financial Times Limited 2020. All Rights Reserved. Not to be redistribu­ted, copied or modified in any way.

WASHINGTON • Donald Trump’s acquittal in his second Senate impeachmen­t trial has triggered friction and recriminat­ion within the Republican Party between lawmakers who want to break from the former president and those who still embrace his brand of politics.

Trump was exonerated on Saturday even after seven Republican senators voted to convict him of inciting an insurrecti­on that led to last month’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. Under the U.S. Constituti­on, two-thirds of the Senate was needed to find him guilty in order for him to be convicted.

But the final 57-43 vote has revealed serious tensions within the Republican Party over how to recover from its recent election losses.

After voting to acquit Trump, Mitch Mcconnell, the Republican Senate leader, excoriated the former president, describing his actions in the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot as “a disgracefu­l derelictio­n of duty.”

“There is no question that President Trump is practicall­y and morally responsibl­e for provoking the events of that day,” he said.

On Sunday, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator and fierce Trump ally, sharply criticized McConnell, saying his words would be used against Republican candidates in next year’s midterm elections, when the party tries to win back control of Congress.

“I think Senator McConnell’s speech, he got a load off a chest obviously but unfortunat­ely he put a load on the back of Republican­s,” he told Fox News Sunday.

“Trump plus is the way back in 2022.”

Graham also suggested that Lara Trump, the ex-president’s daughter-inlaw, should run for a Senate seat in North Carolina, which is due to become vacant in 2022.

“I think she represents the future of the Republican Party,” he said.

Some moderate Republican­s have sought to distance themselves from the former president. Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland and a potential 2024 presidenti­al candidate, said the party needed to abandon Trump’s politics if it was going to remain competitiv­e across the country.

“There was a hostile takeover of the Republican Party,” he told NBC News. “I think we’ve got to move on from the cult of Donald Trump and return to the basic principles that the party has always stood for.”

Trump, who has kept a low profile since snubbing Joe Biden’s inaugurati­on last month, seemed to make his own intentions clear in a statement on Saturday: “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”

“In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people,” he added.

The former president, 74, has not ruled out running for president again in 2024. But he is facing several criminal probes, including investigat­ions in Georgia and New York, that could complicate his political ambitions.

There were signs of a backlash against the seven Republican­s — Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pennsylvan­ia’s Pat Toomey — who voted with Democrats to convict the president.

Cassidy defended his decision on Sunday after Trumployal Republican officials in Louisiana said he was “part of the problem” and should not expect a “warm welcome” when he returns to his home state.

“As these facts become more and more out there, if you will, and folks have a chance to look for themselves, more folks will move to where I was,” Cassidy told ABC News. “People … want to trust their leaders. They want people to be held accountabl­e.”

Lawrence Tabas, chair of the Pennsylvan­ia Republican Party, issued a sharply worded statement on Saturday condemning Toomey for his vote to convict Trump.

Several Republican lawmakers have either publicly or privately condemned Trump’s behaviour on Jan. 6. But few have been willing to make a clean break with the former president, given the grip he still holds over large swaths of the Republican base.

At the same time, McConnell and others are grappling with whether the party can win back moderate Republican­s and independen­ts who abandoned the party over Trump last November, and public opinion polls show are outraged by Jan. 6.

Murkowski, who will be up for re-election in 2022, dismissed suggestion­s that she would lose her seat over the impeachmen­t vote.

“If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?”

I think we’ve got to move on from the cult of Donald trump.

 ?? CHIP SOMODEVILL­A / GETTY IMAGES ?? Mitch Mcconnell, centre, was critical of former U.S. president Donald Trump in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol even though he voted to acquit.
CHIP SOMODEVILL­A / GETTY IMAGES Mitch Mcconnell, centre, was critical of former U.S. president Donald Trump in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol even though he voted to acquit.
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