Trump holds onto GOP reins, wants to make senators voting to convict pay
Former US President Donald Trump. EFE/Cristobal Herrera/File
By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Feb 14 (efe-epa).- Having been acquitted in his second impeachment trial in the US Senate, former President Donald Trump has demonstrated the tight hold he maintains on the Republican Party thanks to his enormous popularity among the GOP base, who are already exacting a high price from the party's lawmakers who voted to convict him of "inciting to insurrection" for his role in fomenting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
One of the seven Republican senators who backed the Democratic attempt to convict Trump for the Capitol attack is Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who on Sunday evening was "censured" by the Republican party in his state in what is considered to be one of the most resounding rebukes that a local party organization can levy.
Nevertheless, in an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Cassidy said he was confident that over time Louisiana residents will understand his decision, adding that the party must abandon Trump's personality cult to be able to return to its traditional values.
"It was clear that he wished that lawmakers be intimidated," Cassidy said regarding the massive rally that Trump addressed in a fiery harangue before urging the crowd to march to the Capitol and "stop the steal" of the election even as lawmakers were meeting there to certify President-elect Joe Biden's Nov. 3 victory, a victory that Trump has never acknowledged.
"The Republican Party is more than just one person," said Cassidy, noting that the party consists of conservative ideas, was the party that ended slavery, preserved the Union during the Civil Wr, approved the first civil rights legislation and ended the Cold War.
That was Cassidy's take on the war that has erupted within the Republican Party to define its identity now that Trump is no longer president.
A portion of the Republicans want Trumpism to remain a core element of the party that welcomed him as its presidential nominee in 2016 after a contentious series of primaries; but others, like Cassidy, fear that that radical wing is causing the GOP to lose votes from centrist voters and are lobbying for a return to the party's traditional values.
Besides Cassidy, two other Republicans who voted against Trump during the impeachment trial on Sunday received criticism from their constituents, namely Richard Burr of North Carolina and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, both of whom next year will leave politics, thus evidently feeling that they had more freedom than their fellow GOP senators to vote in favor of convicting the former president.
In fact, of the seven Republicans who broke ranks, just one - Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - is running for reelection in 2022 while three (Cassidy, Susan Collins and Ben Sasse) were just reelected and thus will not have to face the voters at the polls again until 2026.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the former GOP presidential nominee in 2012, has established himself as a key internal opposition figure to Trump, something that lends him a certain popularity in his state of Utah.
The fear among Republican lawmakers of being the target of Trumpist rage was a key motivator - according to Democrats - in the decision of 43 of the 50 Senate GOP members to vote to acquit the former president.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Saturday that if the Senate vote had been held by secret ballot, lawmakers would have voted to convict Trump.
In any case, few Republicans have come out to defend Trump's actions - or inaction, since it is widely acknowledged that he did not do anything to quell the violence once it had erupted - and the majority fell back on technical arguments about the supposed unconstitutionality of impeaching an ex-president to avoid casting a guilty vote.
It is widely acknowledged by constitutional scholars, however, that impeaching a former government official is perfectly constitutional and the Senate voted at the beginning of the trial 56-44 finding that the trial was, in fact, constitutional - which seemingly should have settled the matter.
The final tally in the Saturday balloting was 57 votes in favor of convicting Trump and 43 opposed, far from the 67 votes that would have been needed to find him guilty of inciting the insurrectinist attack on the Capitol that resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol police officer, as well as more than 100 injuries among the Capitol police.
The result shows that no imminent divorce is in the works between Trumpism and the majority of the conservative lawmakers because Tump has made it clear that he intends to keep making headlines and rejects the idea of going into a mute retirement, as ex-presidents have generally done.
In fact, the magnate is scheduled to meet next week in Florida with Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of his most faithful allies, to speak about the future of the Republican Party.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Graham said that he had spoken with the ex-president after his acquittal adding that Trump is very enthused about the 2022 legislative elections.
Trump has confessed to some of his allies that he intends to use the 2022 elections as an opportunity to pay back those who have remained faithful to him and punish those who, he claims, have betrayed him.
In addition, the former leader has opened the door to running for the presidency again in 2024.
Meanwhile, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has told his advisorsthat he is planning to fight tooth and nail to defend traditional Republicans in the 2022 elections and avoid seeing them challenged in the primaries by members of the extreme right who are loyal to Trumpism.
However, McConnell knows that a direct confrontation could take away votes from Republican candidates and trusts that the multiple legal investigations that Trump is facing in different states and for assorted reasons will relegate him to a secondary position within the US political universe.
Specifically, Trump is being investigated in Georgia for his attempts to reverse the election result there, has a judicial case pending in New York State for alleged financial crimes and is being investigated by Washington DC authorities for his role in the attack on the Capitol.
Despite all this, and more, about 70 percent of Republican voters continue to back Trump, although his support outside the party has declined precipitously since the Capitol assault to about 37 percent among all Americans, according to the average of voter surveys prepared by the FiveThirtyEight Web site.